Adventures of Fatherhood

Playing is a lot easier than coaching.

The amount of restraint and patience needed with coaching is something I never appreciated while playing sports growing up in recreation leagues, in high school and in college.

When I was an athlete, the perfect coach to me married the appropriate messaging when needed while making the sport fun. A balance existed between being positive and negative. Praise was welcomed if warranted, but some constructive criticism seemed appropriate when the time was right.

My only expectation as a coach is for each player to give 100% effort. I’ve learned that’s not always going to happen. When working with pre-teen kids, it would be wrong to assume they will always be entirely focused during practices (and sometimes even games). They will not always try their hardest. Playing hard and exerting maximum effort does not always represent fun to nine- to 12-year-olds. I’ve learned this the hard way and have tried to adjust my expectations.

I have to remember these kids, like adults, have a lot going on in their lives. Coming out to the soccer field or basketball court and working on drills – “boring” in their minds – is not fun. They need to run and get their energy out. Therefore, adjustments to practice routines can sometimes be needed. Rigid is the last quality a coach should have in my opinion.

When tweaks are made, and the same foolishness and lack of effort exists is when I admit to losing my cool. This is especially the case when I am coaching my own kid. I’m much more patient with other children than my own.

I’ve coached Beckett in lacrosse, soccer and basketball. One challenge is the same. I can’t focus on him. I can’t single him out for dogging a play if I’m not going to do the same for the player who is not as good him and not related to me. Internally I can expect more from my kid than the less athletic, but I can’t let that be known. That’s unfair to both players.

I underwent a certification last summer with US Soccer. A key point from one of the programs involved selfishness and coaching.

“You have to completely reverse your perspective. To some degree, all players have to think selfishly. You are taught to focus on your own performance and what you can control. As a coach, it’s the complete opposite, and you need to move the focus from yourself to the team,” the literature read. “You need to try to understand what your players are thinking and feeling, and you need to anticipate how they will react and respond to adversity. Keeping your players confident and motivated is a very important part of your job.”

It continued, “The game will slow down for you, and you’ll be able to see the bigger picture when your players will only be able to see the game from their own perspectives. Plays that seem simple to you may be much more difficult than they appear. It’s important to be patient with players and make sure you are giving them the support and preparation they need so that the game can slow down for them too.”

This is, of course, more easily said than done. Coaches need to set an example. I’m super competitive in sports and work life, but some kids are not. Some youth players are simply on the field or court because their parents make them. They need to lose a few pounds or simply require some balance in their lives from video games after school. There may be parent aspirations about their son or daughter being a high school star and even playing in college. It’s easy to see.

In six years of coaching different sports, I doubt I have coached a future collegiate athlete yet. I have maybe seen a handful in competition around here. The local youth sports scene is not full of future superstars.

The challenge for many parents is a moderation of expectations. Some just can’t do it. These are their prides and joy and they want the best for them. They see them as better than they are in reality. Their love blinds them.

This is what I remember when I hear from an irate parent about a child’s playing time or treatment. The argument was this parent’s child is better than so and so on our team. I understand the concerns, but most of the time I wish they were articulated to me privately rather than screamed across the court or field in the middle of the game.

It all comes back to restraint, which parents and coaches must always keep in mind. It’s difficult because it’s tough to be objective with our kids. Love rules our emotions, but it’s important to set a good example because the kids are watching and learning from us.

The clock read 2:01 a.m. when I awoke to the familiar sound of Carson running from his room.

It’s not unusual for Carson to jump in our bed in the middle of the night, but this was different. He came to my side, grabbed my hand and put something in it. He put a tooth in my hand and ran back to his room.

When Pam rolled over to find out what was up, I said he brought me a tooth that fell out. “That’s sweet,” she said before rolling back over.

We all then went back to sleep. The tooth fairy would have to pay him a visit the next night.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.