Growing up, my dad was a sports enthusiast who was always actively involved in whatever sport or extracurricular activities my siblings and I were involved in. I have fond memories of watching my dad coach my brother’s peewee football and baseball teams. Even when he was not involved with coaching the team, he was always there to watch us play. Looking back, I remember what a great feeling it was to see him in the crowd proudly watching and cheering us on.
My dad’s enthusiasm and passion for sports carried over to his kids. He was always active in the sports community and always encouraged us to be on sports teams as we grew up. Later on in life as I became a sports parent, he continued to give me advice and he brought so much enthusiasm to my kids’ sports lives and my coaching career.
“Nearly” Forgotten Words of Wisdom
Over the years, I had almost forgotten about some of the great wisdom my dad passed along to me until a visit with my son to see him in a nursing home. Dad was asking my son, Joe, if he was going to try out for basketball in the fall. Joe looked unsure of how to respond and replied, “I don’t know.” Of course, dad could sense Joe was afraid and unsure of himself. He paused for a moment, and then passed along these words to my son, “Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something, and never be afraid to try something you have never done before, even if you think people will laugh at you. When you get old like me, you will far more regret not trying something, than you will ever remember people laughing at you. You can do anything you put your mind to.”
Never be Afraid of Trying Something New
That next fall, Joe decided to play basketball and made the team, much to the delight of his grandfather. After the first couple weeks of practice, the assistant coach had to leave the team due to unforeseen circumstances. The league sent out an email asking if any parents would step in and take over the assistant coach position. Like many other parents, I assumed someone else would volunteer. Then a second and third email came out asking for help. No one was volunteering. I remembered what my father had told my son about never being afraid to try something you have never done before. After remembering his advice, I told my husband I was thinking about volunteering to be the assistant coach. He laughed at first, but he knows me too well and knew at that moment I was going to become a coach.
At the next practice, I told the league administrator I was willing to take over the position. Another parent overheard our conversation, walked up to me, patted me on the head and said, “That’s cute, but you can’t coach these boys.” This parent looked at me, a tiny 5’1” mom, and assumed I could not coach a basketball team consisting of middle and high school boys. I did it anyway. I stepped out of my comfort zone, even though in the back of my mind I agreed with the other parent. “What was I thinking? How am I going to coach a group of teenage boys?”
This Is My Coach
I showed up to the next practice feeling quite a bit uncomfortable. How was I going to earn the respect of these kids, and their parents? Right then and there I decided I would be at every practice and every game. I participated, I tried, and I felt awkward. But I did it anyway. A few short weeks into the league, I showed up early to one our games. A few of the players were also there watching the game before ours. I walked over to the group, some were from our team and some I did not know. I started talking to one of our star players and asked him if he was ready for the game. His friend turned to him and said, “Who is this?” The star player replied, “This is my coach.” At that moment, I could not have felt more special and would never have thought that being called, “coach” would feel so good. All of the late nights spent studying drills and form, post practice talks with athletes trying to instill confidence in them and never missing a minute of practice was paying off.
I Did It for The Team
That year our team ended up going all the way to the league championship, just barely losing in the final game by 5 points.However, it did not matter to me if we won or lost, I was just excited and proud to be there. I looked up to these kids, literally and figuratively. Just a few weeks after the season was over I ran into a couple of the players at the YMCA. They said, “Coach, are you going to come back next season, because we want to be on your team.” To be honest, I wascompletely surprised, but so excited to hear this. I was jumping up and down inside, so thrilled to know that I made a difference to these kids, and that they enjoyed being on the team. I replied, “Absolutely, I will coach again as long as you will play.”
The following year I did return, but not as an assistant coach. I was placed as the head coach of the team. I went on to coach the next two years, which was one of the most rewarding experiences. As most coaches often feel, I never felt I was the best coach out there, but I gave it everything I had. I did it for the team but I also did it for myself. I did if for the kids who were afraid to try out for the team and I did it for every parent who was afraid to volunteer, to step out of their comfort zone and do something they had never done before.
The Best is Yet to Come
I didn’t know how I could feel much better than I did, but the best was yet to come for me. As we approached the end of my third season coaching, I received an email from the head of the league. The first line of the email read, “You have been selected as your division’s Coach of the Year. You will be presented with the award at the awards ceremony next Saturday.” I was shocked, humbled, and had to go back and re-read the email a dozen times. My family all showed up at the ceremony to see me accept my award. They called my name and I stepped up to the podium to give my acceptance speech. The words flowed out just as I had remembered them, and I reflected upon how much they changed my life.
“When I first volunteered to coach, someone told me I couldn’t do it. They said I could not be a coach…But I did it anyway. So for all of you kids out there who may be afraid to play on a team, and for all of you parents who are hesitant to volunteer to coach, never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, and never be afraid to try something you have never done before, even if you think people will laugh. You will feel more regret not doing something, than you will remember those who laughed at you.” Thanks Dad.
-Patty W. of SI Play