It’s spring in Portland, OR which means rain with peeks of sunshine. This season has been too wet, yet it hasn’t deterred any athletes – they all come back for more. Aside from personal training, coaching is the one thing that I dedicate so much time and brainpower to. It’s the job that pays the least, but is the most gratifying. There’s something about being around young people who are excited to learn and grow from what you are teaching them, that makes the process both fun and challenging. Each athlete is evolving into greater versions of themselves, but at different rates.
I think of coaching Track & Field as a way to improve and inspire each athlete, individually. With big teams, that’s a difficult task. However, after a couple of weeks, you do get to know each athlete. I can tell very quickly, their temperaments, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, event capabilities, and commitment to their journey. When I first joined my high school track team, I was super shy but attacked the track. It was the one place that I felt alive and myself. I took workouts seriously, but I knew from the beginning that I was one of the few. I didn’t mind that truth. My teammates were awesome and every girl brought life to the team, regardless of their skill and seriousness with the sport.
Sports are so competitive these days and that competitiveness can discourage student-athletes from participating. I want all levels to join my team. I want the kid that’s never run a step, leaped in the air, or thrown a ball to be on my team. Because, the fact is, there are components to track and field that can be a part of us throughout our lives. Our jobs are not just to develop speed, strength, and skill. Our jobs are to also develop confidence, unity, and tenacity in our athletes and team. While, as coaches, we work so hard at those things we inevitably (if we are doing our jobs correctly) develop a level of trust at the same time. If the goal is to bring something great out of an athlete, then the trust does need to live in the athlete-coach relationship.
As coaches, it is our job to step-up and be a guide, be a role model. It comes from within. “What lies before us and what lies behind us are all small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen” – Henry David Thoreau
The other side of coaching often involves parents. I recently read an article by Steve Hanson, titled “What Makes A Nightmare Sports Parent — And What Makes a Great One.” The article was about an informal study over three decades, that was initiated by Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miler of Proactive Coaching. To sum it up, kids don’t want their parents to be their coaches, talk about the game/meet, or offer advice. They want their parents to be their parents. Students were asked: “What is your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?” The most popular response: “The ride home from the games with my parents.” Athletes were also asked what their parents said that made them feel good? Again, the overwhelming response was: “I love to watch you play.” It is so simple. Athletes don’t want approval, instruction, critiques, or pressure from their parents. They want their parents to just enjoy watching them. They want the coaching to live with the coach and for their parents to just be parents.
Miller says, “Athletics is one of the best ways for young people to take risks and deal with failure because the consequences aren’t fatal, they aren’t permanent. We’re talking about a game. So they usually don’t want or need a parent to rescue them when something goes wrong. Once you as a parent are assured the team environment is a safe environment, release your child to the coach and to the game. That way all successes are theirs, all failures are theirs.”
As I enter another season as coach and my first season as parent with a son in Farm League baseball, I believe these are very wise words that all parents, can understand and appreciate.
Here’s to another season of sports! I hope all of us coaches, parents, and everyone in between can live out our roles to the best of our abilities.