The Urban Dictionary defines class as “a person who is poised, graceful, mature, or exudes any of these qualities in dress, mannerism, language, and everyday life. Possesses excellent self-control, is gentle, soothing, and unoffensive.” I almost wish this was given to every parent and coach before a sporting event took place. The things I continue to witness grown adults do when they are supposed to be leading children not only shocks me, but it sickens me.
Let’s talk coaches… Please know that if you coach a team, your athletes are watching you. Often times an athlete is more likely to listen to what you say than they are their own parents. So if a coach is talking trash about another team or athlete, what kind of example are you really setting? Encouraging players to physically hurt the other team, making fun of kids on the opposing team, and throwing out vulgar and obscene language only makes you look weak and classless.
And please remember that often times the parents can hear you. I was recently at a wrestling tournament. Seating was limited, and all the parents from both teams were sandwiched in together in a few rows of chairs. I heard the opposing team’s coaches. They sounded like a bunch of frat boys, not leaders. They were not coaching in a pure way, giving tips on how to win, but instead making jokes about the other team, pointing, and suggesting that their team play to win, even if it meant playing dirty. “If the ref doesn’t see it, I don’t care what you do.” Stop right there. Remember when I said that these kids listen and look up to coaches? Telling a high school kid that you don’t care what they do as long as they don’t get caught carries right on over into every day life. You just taught your athlete that as long as they stay below the radar they can do whatever they please. Whatever happened to teaching integrity?
Let’s dig a little deeper. During certain seasons coaches see more of my boys than I do. They are essentially like a second set of parents. When I let my child participate I am trusting those coaches to not only teach my kids a skill, but also to keep them safe, and help shape them into men of integrity. If you as a coach then turn around and blow your top, screaming obscenities at students and parents, and can’t keep it together during stressful times, what exactly are you teaching my boys?
Then there are the fun Daddy Ball coaches. Super. You want to coach your kid’s team. You want to “be involved”. We are so proud. Let’s give you Father of the Year. But for the love of sports, LET OTHER KIDS PLAY! Just because you are the coach doesn’t mean that your kid is the star athlete. He may be a chip off the old block, but that doesn’t mean that he is really THAT good. And even if he is, so is little Johnny, Timmy, and Tyler too. I did not show up to watch Junior run the bases over and over while you tell the rest of the team they aren’t good enough to play. And while I’m at it…I’d really like your wife to sit down and shut up. She’s not special!
Now we come to the parents….I’ve sat in stands along side parents for so many years that I have a permanent dent in my hind end from bleachers! I’ve made so dear friends while sitting in the stands, but there is always that one parent. I’m betting every single one of you can think of one of these parents. During this season of my life it is a wrestling dad that just won’t be quiet. I’m seriously getting short of breath and my heart rate went up just thinking about him. He coaches from the sidelines. He coaches so much that the actual coach is quiet because the coach can’t be heard over the dad. (Side note- Jackson shut that boy’s dad up on Saturday when he beat him!) Anyway…This dad says things like, “Shove him down, and don’t let him up for air. Don’t let him breathe.” It’s a miracle I don’t come down out of the stands and give this father a piece of my mind! Parents, stop coaching from the sidelines. You aren’t the coach, and half the time the kids tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about anyway. Be quiet. Let the coaches do their jobs.
Accept when your child doesn’t win, even if the ref made a bad call. Life isn’t fair. These kids should learn it early in life, rather than later. Bad calls get made, injustices happen, and we become stronger because of it. If you want Little Billy to be given a cupcake and a medal every time he puts on a uniform, then perhaps you should start a No Competition Necessary Club. In fact, I believe some of the greatest lessons are learned from losing. Life isn’t handed to you. You get knocked down. It’s all about whether or not you get back up and learn to do what it takes to win the next time. Earning a medal is way better than being given one. Now sit down and hush so your kid can learn that lesson.
Sadly, I have to take this one step further. Remember how I told you parents should sit down? I want to keep pressing that point. Please remember that you are an adult, and you should act as example to youth. On Saturday I didn’t just watch coaches tell kids to play a game with no ethics, I watched a father come out of the stands and rush a coach from the opposite team. He was screaming at the coach, getting into his personal space, and itching for a fight. It took multiple adults to hold the dad back, and usher him into the hallway. NEVER should a parent engage with a coach from the other side unless it is to congratulate, welcome, or ask general questions. The way a player behaves is the business of the coaches and refs, NOT YOU! It begs the question, what are you teaching the athletes? Do we now come out swinging when we don’t get our way? Screaming, getting red faced, and acting like a fool won’t change the outcome.
I actually was threatened myself as a coach. It never ends well for the parent. In this case the parent was unable to watch her child play the rest of the season because she wasn’t allowed on school grounds. Be an adult. If you have nothing positive to say, please keep your mouth shut. If you have questions for your child’s coach, address them like an adult. There is no need to cause a scene.
My family has actually been very fortunate with the coaches they have been blessed with. My daughter cheered for a coach who pushed her to break past her fears, swing for the fences, and always challenge herself beyond her comfort zone. My eldest son, Jackson has been surrounded by wrestling coaches since the 8th grade. (I’ll tell you the wrestling story another time. It’s quite a lengthy chat!) In the 8th grade my son learned that powerful things come in small packages. He began learning that winning is important, but it isn’t everything. Learning from your loss has value; don’t lose sight of that. Jackson also began to see that being a real man means you speak softly, and listen to those who have been there and done that. Fast forward 3 years. Jackson’s little brother joined the wrestling brotherhood. Together they are learning that team is more important than self. Hard work is more important than talent. And winning with integrity beats cheating any day.
The boys love their coach. He pushes them beyond their mental limits, praises them for hard work, and encourages them to be better men. “Leave it all on the mat. Put your heart into it, and then walk away knowing you gave it everything you have.” Those are the lessons coaches are supposed to teach. Read it again. That’s a life lesson. No amount of screaming, cursing, fighting, or cheating can teach that kind of lesson. They will remember you long after they leave these halls. Not for that fancy move you taught them, but for the life lessons you shared with them along the way.