For many people, the beginning of November marks the start of a festive season. In Upstate New York, the leaves have turned colors and fallen from their boughs to the ground. We are waking up to frost on the roofs and lawns in the mornings. The winds howl a little more at night and the cold air nips at our faces.
For many, November also marks the start of the high school winter sports season. Basketball, Ice Hockey, Cheerleading, Wrestling, Skiing, Indoor Track are all beginning in the coming week. Student athletes are buying new sneakers, sharpening their skis, ordering gloves and hats, and generally looking forward to a fresh new season. But they are not the only ones preparing. Coaches are getting set for the upcoming season as well. They are cleaning out their bags, wiping off the clipboards, testing their stopwatches, organizing forms, planning out tryouts and the first few practices, setting goals for the season, and checking the roster twice! They are looking forward to seeing veteran athletes and getting to know the new ones.
Coaches are important role models in the lives of student athletes. Good or bad, coaches affect the lives of players and their families. Coaches see the players sometimes more often than their parents with all of the practices, games, and bus rides. Athletes learn a lot from coach – commitment, time management, teamwork, perseverance, adaptability, endurance. Not every coach is loved, or sometimes even respected, but there are lessons to be learned from even the most inept of coaches – tolerance, patience, optimism, grit, principle. It’s no wonder why athletes remember their coaches long after they have finished playing for them.
Despite the many rewards of coaching, it’s not always a great experience for coaches. Coaches have to deal with school administrators, other coaches, parents, student discipline, lack of enthusiasm, budgets, travel plans, time away from home, explaining losses, and exhaustion. Many have other full-time jobs, such as being teachers, police, plumbers, contractors, and coach after a full day of work. Most received a salary of nickels and dimes, if they get a pay check at all. No effective coach that I know is in it for the salary though. They are in it because they love the sport, care about the student athletes, want to be a part of a school district, and want to see their athletes succeed and achieve their goals.
So the next time you feel the need to yell at your student’s coach, or blame them for the team’s loss, or call their house in the evening, or tell your child that coach doesn’t know what he/she is doing, just remember that coaches are human too. They are compensated very little, if at all, for what they do. They make mistakes, and it’s up to the rest of us to convey that mistakes are learning opportunities. Most have families at home that surrender their time with them to team practices, games, and meetings. There are real life lessons for students to learn from all types of coaches, even the bad ones. It’s okay to not like a coach. Odds are that there will be plenty that you won’t agree with, just be respectful (a life lesson that kids should learn).