I just received a phone call asking if I would be willing to be the coach of my son’s recreational soccer team. There is no part of my body that thinks this is a good fit for my personality. First and foremost, after years of watching all three of my children play soccer at least once or twice during their long athletic careers, I still know very little about the sport itself. And, if that’s not enough to keep me off of the sidelines, I have very little patience for other parents. Let me rephrase that…I have very little patience for other parents who 1) think their child is a better athlete than he or she really is, 2) feel the first grade soccer team is one step below becoming a member of the Chicago Fire and 3) run over to the team huddle during every timeout with an extra water bottle and cheese cracker snack because little Johnny didn’t eat a very good lunch.
The patience I lack as a possible coach, I make up for in being a good ‘player parent.’ I am none of the people described above (at least I hope I’m not) and I really do think being a coach of any type of kid team, even if you were forced to volunteer, is an enormous amount of responsibility. Which is why, at the beginning of every new sport’s season, I truly believe that our coach has the best interest of my child and his or her team at heart. For the most part, this philosophy has served us well and we have been blessed with a myriad of coaches who have gone above and beyond their call of volunteer duty. Until last year.
Last year, my middle son moved up an age bracket for his baseball league and was put on a new team. While his fielding was strong, Nate was in a bit of a batting slump—a slump that lasted pretty much throughout the entire season. With each and every game, I could tell the coach was growing more frustrated with Nate—pulling him from key fielding positions and taking him out of play every other inning. Near the end of the season, this coach allowed teammates to give Nate a hard time about his hitting ability to the point where Nate’s love for the sport itself completely deteriorated. It took just one season for an 11 year-old boy, a boy who was sitting on the All-Star field the year before, to decide to hang up his bat and glove for good.
As we begin our first spring/summer season with one less baseball player in the house, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened had that coach looked at my son as a person instead of just a player. I’ve seen it happen before—the wrestling coach who showed Nate the importance of setting goals; the soccer coach who encouraged Hanna to learn a new position; the baseball coach who knew Jack’s size had nothing to do with his might and the football coaches who defined what it meant to really be a team—these adults looked at the role of coach as more than just a manager of the game and realized the impact they might have on the future lives of their young players.
For the record, I’m not volunteering to coach this soccer season and I’m pretty sure after spending a fall season where half the game time was devoted to helping 6 year-old boys zip up their coats, my husband will not be volunteering either. But, we will be there on the sidelines, cheering on our children, remembering to bring our snacks on the right day and supporting our coaches in any way possible.