I loved the sport(s), I loved being on a team, I loved pushing myself to places I didn't think I could go for the sake of my teammates. I may never have been the 'best' player on any of my teams, but I was certainly one of the most enthusiastic. I have a journal from my senior year of college that I wrote in after a big win where I wrote in all caps, "NEVER FORGET THIS FEELING!" That's where sports can get you: to the upper highs of emotion. It also can get you to the lowest of lows but then it taught me how to recover from those, making that 'brush yourself off and get back up' reaction stronger for the next million times that life inevitably knocked me on my behind in a thousand different ways.
The sum of what I learned from playing sports has always been greater than the parts, and I think most athletes would agree.
I'm also writing from the perspective of the wife to a Varsity coach. My husband's team is considered part of our family all year, but especially during the season. We wait for Daddy to come home to eat dinner, usually past bedtime, we travel to home and away games, and we all talk, worry, and cheer all season long. Our young kids know the players' names and numbers, get to know the players' parents, families, and girlfriends and then pretend to be them when they play at home. These teenage boys near celebrity status to our three kids as they give them high fives, knicknames, and ask them how they played after the games as though the opinion of a three year old was the most important thing they had ever heard.
And finally, I'm writing as a parent to kids that have their own coaches. We have a strong belief that raising kids takes a village, and our kids' coaches are part of that village. We write thank you notes at the end of the season, ask how we can support the team through volunteering our time or talents, and remind the kids to include them in their prayers at night. Having their coach's familiar face at practice and the games gives our kids the confidence to believe in themselves. These coaches, just as their teachers, become our partners in teaching our kids how to grow into their best selves. We regard their opinion, advice, and suggestions highly because we fully understand that they get to know our kid, not better than us, but differently than us.
So, from those perspectives, I'm encouraging you, today, to Thank a Coach.
- Thank the coach that made you better than when you started. Whether that was the little league coach that taught you the rules at the start of your career in the sport, the coach that cleaned up your game as you started in a higher league, or the coach that got you pumped up at the start of the second half of a game your team was losing.
- Thank the coach that had to try to schedule practice fairly, who organized fundraising projects, and who threw in their own money when it ran out in the account and paid out of pocket for the pizza.
- Thank the coach who gave you your knickname, or learned your team celebration cheers, or perfectly executed that dumb phrase you and your teammates made up - because to your coach, you all were much more to them than your jersey number.
- Thank the coach who had the difficult job of keeping you and your teammates under control during the season. There's nothing quite like the bond that comes through long bus rides, common hatred of suicide drills, and post-win huddles. Through the whole season, you and your team continue to get closer in friendship, but also weirder and sillier. Thank the coach that put up with you and your teammates' antics and goofball jokes.
- Thank the coach that gave you hope to come back again tomorrow to try again after a hard loss, a painful injury, or a difficult time in your personal life.
- Thank the coach who said to you, "I don't care what anyone else out there is saying, you are playing because I believe you are the best person for the job, so BE the best person for the job." And then you became your best.
- Thank the coach who stood on the sidelines arguing with the ref about an unfair call in your defense. The sight of their emotion and hand motions was a reminder that someone had your back.
- Thank the coach who showed up to cheer for you at your other activities. The coach who shows up at your graduation party. The coach that shows up through mailed notes of congratulations and encouragement as you move through life.
- Thank the coach that sacrificed their time. Every minute spent at practice, traveling to games, in the office to meet with you, watching game film, taking phone calls from parents, making calls to colleges, talking with the newspapers, tallying up individual players' performances, printing programs, writing letters of recommendations, meeting with teachers about grades and discipline...every minute of that - they were choosing you over everything else.
- Thank the coach that celebrated with you after the wins and stood beside you through the losses. Who was the first to say, 'here's how we're going to move forward from this.' Who encouraged your team to rally at the end of a close game or at the end of a difficult season. The coach you looked at incredulously when it seemed impossible but there they were still over there drawing up crazy plays and shouting from the sideline, "You got this!"
- Thank the coach who stops to talk when you see them around town and asks how your life is going - even though it's been a long time since they've been your coach. Know it's fine if you still call them Coach, great even- because, to them, YOU will always be considering one of their 'kids' no matter how much time passes.
- Thank the coach who you reach out to for advice and encouragement someday when you become a coach and think to yourself, 'wow, I had no idea.'
- Ya know what? You can even thank the coach that you thought was unfair and unreasonable. Thank them because when your boss at work is being unfair and unreasonable, you already have practice on the feelings of frustration and how to move past them.
Thank a coach because just as all of those drills and practices paid off because
you put in the time and effort to be a better athlete,
your coach put in the time and effort to help you become a better person.