By Matt Kaufman
In youth sports, we have a universal challenge. We have to beg folks into coaching. We sometimes use strong language to shame someone into taking a team or use guilt or threats to turn kids away if necessary.
One of Parkland’s parents has my utmost respect. He pulled me aside one day and said:
“This way is not working and it gives a negative impression.”
After reflection, I realized he was spot on. Instead of explaining to everyone the ramifications of what happens if they do not coach, it is time to shine a light on what happens if you do.
You have some control. You get to evaluate the kids and choose the ones you want. Here is the chance to have your daughter on the same team as some of her friends. You make it more fun by selecting good attitudes and fun families.
In the first set of practices, you get to know new families, particularly the kids. I cannot tell you how many friendships have been formed through my coaching for my entire crew. This is our circle of friends now, and I never saw that coming.
There is nothing like the rush of seeing a kid excel. When a child scores their first touchdown you see the elation on their face, hear the screaming of their parents. How about a kid who was a middle of the road athlete and they have a moment of stardom? How about the best of athletes finally gets to taste success? These kids crave winning and to bring that to them validates their effort. Imagine a great math student who finally gets a terrific teacher. The sky is the limit for that kid.
There is also the chance to extend past coaching the game. Teaching patience, maturity, teamwork, competitiveness, toughness, humility, understanding that terrible calls happen, to make sure that first-timers get a chance to touch the ball and to be coachable, which is critical to any career. To recognize that I am in a uniform, with cleats on, running around on a beautiful field with my friends, while my family is watching and cheering me on… This is where the magic is folks.
Coaching is the opportunity to create an experience for the families of Parkland. It gives them memories and provides the opportunity for everyone to get together for something positive. This is what builds a community.
And afterwards, we go for ice cream.
Seriously everyone, what is better than all of this?
It ain’t perfect by a long shot, but that is what makes it great. The family that cannot be there on time. The kid who forgets his mouthpiece every game. The kid that runs left even though you pinch her right arm to remind her to go right. The kid who has to go to the bathroom every game.
These are the memories that you take away, chuckling at the end.
The part I love most is the long term impact it has on your own child. They see their parent taking leadership responsibilities in the community. We are teaching them to step up, as well as teaching them how to make a bad situation fun and a good situation great. We teach them how to think of other people besides themselves.
The life lessons go on and on. All from coaching.
For a couple of months, you will leave work early a day or two a week. You will have to ask your assistant coach to cover for you during business travel. You will have to scurry through your house grabbing cleats, mouthpieces, plays and your bag as you run out the door. You will go to bed thinking at night creating a new play to get one of your players in the end zone.
You will get caught up in it.
And your kid will love it! They will look at you in a new way. With respect and appreciation. So will all the other coaches, players, and their parents. You become a celebrity at Publix.
You have my word. You will never regret spending more time with your child and all the kids.
The impact will stay with you for years. Not just with them.