Coaches turn boys to men

boy's foot on soccer ball

Our son has been an athlete since he was five years old. He played both competitive and recreational and knew his way around tournament play.

High school sports

Nothing quite prepares a player for that first time taking the field as a freshman on a high school team. No matter how talented a player, those first forays onto the field were better described as “deer in the headlights” than “impressive athlete.” Still, his coaches saw something in him and for that we are forever grateful. They gave him numerous chances to prove the athlete he could be. This is not to say it was always high fives and hugs.

Mother’s moments

I know that our son was once chastised harshly at a half time for not playing his best. As a mother, there are moments when it’s hard to hear that someone has yelled at your child. It is important to remember that sometimes those someone yelled at me moments end up being the strongest character building a young person could benefit from.

I liken it to a lifeguard’s whistle. A parent can tell a child a dozen times not to run around the pool. A lifeguard whistle seems to cut through and make an impact when the parental voice is just background noise.

So it goes with coaches. Sometimes they are the whistle. At that halftime my son was told he was not pulling his weight. He wasn’t. He went out the second half and scored.

Lesson learned

It’s your mom’s job to tell you that you are amazing. It is sometimes a coach’s job to tell you, sternly if necessary, that you can and will do better. I like to think, God willing, that current and future employers will benefit from the time someone had the guts to tell my son you can do better until he did.

Of course, as he grew, there were times he tried to tell me a story of something funny that had happened between the coaches and players.

Sometimes we decided that ‘what happens at practice, stays at practice’ was a pretty good rule for mom’s sanity. It’s also a pretty good rule for growing boys. At some point you have to learn that what happens in the clubhouse, dugout or locker room between the team stays there too.

True sportsmanship

They had pregame prayer and post-game bonding. Many a young man’s problems were solved with pizza and prayer. When out they were taught that they represented their families, their team, their community and themselves everywhere they went.

In years when they went all the way to the championships, the focus was always first and foremost on grades and sportsmanship too. We did not win at all costs, but we always left with our dignity and our reputation intact. We had bad weather, bad calls and bad games, but they always wore the uniforms with pride.

For four years, our coach did not allow them to be introduced individually at the start of a game. They always took the field introduced AS A TEAM. There is no I in Team indeed. Coaching has got to be an often thankless job. Sure, you get the end of the year awards when the parents herd coaches into clutches of kids and make them smile for the camera. There might be a framed photo, a gift card or a signed piece of athletic equipment.

It is difficult, however, to truly thank someone who spent years helping mold your child. Who started in the off-season, who worked in the sun, wind, rain, sleet and snow. Who made sure there was team bonding and carpools and that parents and players knew where to be and when.

During this time they had their own careers, causes, and families. One coach has young children. Another met and married his wife during the time my son was in his care. Through it all, with so many amazing life choices on their own plates, they continued to give their time and talents to 29 or so children who were NOT their own — but certainly at times behaved like they were. And so it goes.

Four years ago we gave him a gawky, unsure and reserved freshman. He gave us back a player who was honor roll all four years, County 1st Team, District 1st Team, Team Captain and MVP.

Thank you

There is no coach’s gift, plaque, framed photo or signed ball that can pay back. Words are not enough but they will have to suffice to say thank you for the effort and energy coaches put into helping make our son the man he has become.

For four years, Coach Jon opened team texts with the salutation “Gentlemen …” until one day, in a blink, our boys grew into the young men he helped assure they would be.


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