I should have just said thank-you. But I didn’t.
It’s been a while now since I brought the roof down with my big mouth. I really messed up. Nothing new, my mouth opens and things come out before I have a chance to edit. It happens all the time. But this time, I really knocked it out of the park. I thought I had something important to say, but really, I didn’t. Not important enough for what it would ultimately cost. Sure, it’s important to express our feelings and concerns as parents, and it’s definitely crucial to advocate for our children. But, when someone volunteers to coach our child’s sports team, when they give up free time with their own families, and donate that time to us, really the only thing we should ever say to them is thank-you.
But we can’t resist. We all think we have something important to say don’t we? Here’s the thing, nobody wants to be the crazy sports parent. And we never think we will be.
But it happens like this:
We listen to the whispers. We start to believe the gossip. We wonder if our children are being overlooked in their sport. We question the coaches’ decisions, their motivations, and their loyalties. We create drama where there doesn’t have to be any.
Sure, there are politics in sports, and yes, our kids will get passed over for others at some point. But it really isn’t any of our business how the coach gets to that decision. And it isn’t the end of the world. And it certainly isn’t up to us as parents to change the outcome on behalf of our child. On that team, our kid’s team, the decisions about what happens on the ice, or the field, are entirely and unequivocally the coach’s decisions. Whatever decision he or she is making. It’s theirs. It always is. Why? Because they are the freaking coaches. They are out there. Not us. Because they are the ones getting up at 5am to coach our kids a sport. Because they are there for so many kids who’s parents can’t or won’t be there.
The coach is always there.
Hauling bags, raking pitching mounds, tying skates, staying up late to make practice plans, tournament plans, development plans. They are there for ALL of our children; the wonky ones, the insecure ones, the lonely kids, the kids with no role models, the “crazy” kids, the snot-nosed kid (there’s ALWAYS the booger-nosed kid), the always-late kid, and the missing-one-elbow-pad kid…all of them.
At CRAZY a.m. (that’s a real time), in a freezing cold arena, our coach is willingly out there with that “un-coachable” kid, the “brat” that all the parents in the heated lounge shake their heads at. And that coach will do everything he can to convince that player he can be a superstar by 7 am.
And that kid? Well he will remember his coach’s early morning words FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.
It’s real. A good coach can make a positive, indelible mark on a person’s life. And it may have NOTHING to do with the sport.
At your child’s next practice, watch closely, and whisper “thank-you” into the lid of your mocha latte. Watch what happens when the coach gathers a rag-tag group of sweaty, sleepy hockey players into a circle at the end of practice. The players’ sticks will bang the ice in unison…whipping up courage and strength for the day, strength for a lifetime. That ice banging ritual is a THANK-YOU and a show of respect…from teammates to each other, and to the coaches.
And those coaches, on those mornings, will have an immeasurable impact on our children.
What have I learned since last season? To be humble. To be reasonable. To ignore the chatter. To be thankful. And most importantly, to keep my mouth shut when I want to question the coach. Now I just sip my coffee, watch the game and whisper thank-you.