The Coachening

Yesterday, me, my brother, and our cousin with whom we grew up from just down the road in our little town were all coaching youth sports teams on the same day.  Social media confirmed this.  The latter two are both doing basketball right now; I’m doing an indoor soccer team and we’re about to start basketball for the kids as well.  And this got me to thinking…

Why most of us do it:  the kids are really fun as pre-teen participants, of course, and it’s great to be part of their team-sports development.  We can all list the stock positives for youth athletics.  Most of us who pick up the coaching gauntlet also feel like we know a little something about the sport at hand; we have some knowledge or wisdom to impart.  

There’s also a darker more controlling aspect to all this – one you need to be aware of and acknowledge.  As the coach, your position of authority means you set the practice schedule (within limits), control the training, and more importantly, who plays where.  We’ve all seen coaches who are there to make sure their kids play or make the team.  Make sure little Johnny gets some QB time or some reps at shortstop.  You also have guys and gals who are super-competitive and intense and are trying to imbue (and in most cases force) this attribute on the kids.  These coaches can end up shouting and barking at the kids – we’ve all been there – which results in a) the kids tuning them out, and b) ruining the experience for everyone.

I know I definitely have some of the latter in me.  I know I can get intense – the eyebrows get angry, the tone of voice gets gruff…  Some of the kids won’t remember the positive reinforcement, they’ll only remember a loud male voice.  Hopefully, the fact that I realize this, combined with the wife’s careful eye and feedback from other parents keeps me to the good side.   As far as the control aspect – well, it’s good to have some assistance there as well.  If you’re an organized person, setting up schedules, communications, etc., probably comes relatively easy.  If you’re not and organized person, find someone to help.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that parents really appreciate knowing what’s going on.  And if you do have a good assistant or c0-coach, hopefully they can help with those my-kid-blinders to which every parent is susceptible.

The vast majority of us realize that youth sports are primarily for fun – even as the teams get more competitive.  That’s why we played when we were kids, after all.  If we just remember this, hopefully everyone has a better, more positive experience.

 

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One thought on “The Coachening

  1. One aspect that is perhaps overlooked in your piece is the fact that I get to know all the kids and most of the parents of the kids. Now in Springfield or Dallas, MUCH bigger places this might not be as important. However, in Monticello it is. My son is playing football and basketball with the same kids he’ll go to Jr. High and High School with. I’ve already managed to get to know some parents of some of the kids who are great folks. On the down side and as much as I hate to say it, I’ve also met some parents that aren’t such great people and their kids, alas, don’t fall far from the tree. However, the positive to this is that I can steer my son away from some of those kids who are currently trouble makers that probably have a better than average chance to become serious trouble makers in the future.

    I have noticed myself being more of a helicopter parent with the sports involvement. However, I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing when it comes to sports. I can monitor the amount of exercise my kid gets (making sure he gets enough!). I can also monitor the people he’s around and the things he’s being taught. Its very easy to “drop the kids off at practice” and assume the person that is volunteering to steer you kids athletic endeavors is a good person, instilling hard work, discipline, good sportsmanship etc. into your kid. However, we all know that isn’t the case. As Mr. Ville points out there are other kinds of coaches out there. Mrs. The Rube enjoys watching me coach because I’m always positive with the kids. Even when disciplining them etc. The other parents have taken note of this as well, which is good and bad. Good in that I’ve met lots of really nice folks, bad in that I’m very approachable and have more than once had to fend off the “my kid should be playing more” parents.

    As my son is 12 and next year begins school sponsored sports this will be my last opportunity to coach him more than likely. From here on out he gets folks that are paid to do it. I’m both sad and relieved. Relieved in that I will have more time to devote to other things, sad in that I will have less time spent with my son. Because the reality is, the real reason I coach is so that I get to spend more time with him. The rides to and from practice, rides to and from games are wonderful times that I will miss VERY much…the conversations, and not just about football or basketball, but about anything and everything will now have to be had when we can find time. I just hope it remains as important to him to find that time going forward as it is to me.

    On the flip side, I do have a 2 week old daughter now…so I get to start this all over again in another 6 years!!!! May have to tap Mr. The Ville for some soccer knowledge!?!?!?

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