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"That guy is the worst."
"He doesn't know what he's doing."
"My kid needs some real coaching."
Those were the comments coming from a friend of mine as we were discussing how his son's baseball season was going. I asked for examples of what was happening, favoring his own kid seemed to be the biggest complaint about the little league coach. That’s understandable, I can see a coach doing that, after all this is a volunteer little league coach. We’re not talking about a club travel ball coach that collects $400 per month per player on the team (this is a whole different topic for a blog on a different day, club coach vs. volunteer coach). We continued to talk more about the kids (we both have 11-year-olds and sometimes they play against each other) and other sports they've been involved in. There was a recurring theme when my friend would talk about the different sports and teams his son played on. That theme? The coach sucks.
I was hooked on sports at an early age. My introduction to team sports was when I was in the second grade. My brother, who was in the fifth grade at the time, told me I’d be playing on the fifth grade basketball team that season. This wasn’t because I was a basketball phenom, this was simply a numbers game, they didn’t have enough fifth graders for the team! This trend continued throughout my childhood as my brothers practices and games became my daycare. I was the manager or bat boy of most teams they played on (I have two older brothers). I was able to keep official score of a basketball or baseball game at a very young age. Sports was and still is what I’m most passionate about.
I’ve been coaching since the age of 15. Coaching sixth grade basketball was the way I earned my community service hours needed to graduate high school. The pure joy of watching a team work in unison after all of the practice reps is what drives me as a coach. I knew this right away when I began to coach. I was just as passionate about being a coach as I was about being an athlete.
I went on to later become a high school athletic director for 14 years. So, as this conversation with my friend continued, I began to play the role of high school administrator/coach. I tried to touch on what it really is all about and should be about. How is he getting along with and treating his teammates? Does he enjoy it still? Does he set goals and work to achieve those goals? That's what it's all about, right? Things like the relationships you're building, how well you work with others, the value of being passionate about something and working hard to achieve what you set your mind on, THOSE are the lessons and values that should be emphasized during those youth sports years. All of these lessons can be taught by the parent alone and they don't need the support of the so-called "bad coach." If you are criticizing and/or critiquing the coach, then the values that team sports are supposed to be all about are being completely undermined. It is even a bigger problem if this happens in front of your child, they’re smart, they figure things out quickly and are now supplied the ammo to question or undermine a coach. I loved sports so much as a kid, because I was fortunate enough to have my mother and father emphasizing the valuable lessons that sports teaches us and the tools it gives us for life. They never emphasized winning and losing, they never took my side if I complained about a coach not playing me, it was all about my attitude and my effort. I call on those two things every day in life, thank you mom and dad.
As our conversation winded down, I reminded my friend about the recurring theme. I finally asked him, "Have you ever had a coach of your son's team that you've liked?"
"Not really." He replied.
I ended the conversation with, "Who's the problem?"