As my sons grow up, I’ve helped coach their various teams — never the head coach but assisting. COVID canceled my 13-year-old’s soccer season, so he flipped over to playing volleyball (I know, don’t ask — seems safer to me to be outside kicking a ball but whatever).
With more kids playing volleyball, they split the teams and the head coach needed some help. I volunteered.
My style of coaching is to focus on skill development and improvement. I like to guide and suggest. I’ll break things down into drills that when practiced over and over develop into a fluid outcome.
When the head coach is absent, I find myself struggling. I’ve found I need to detail every minute of practice or it devolves into chaos. Boys this age have a ton of energy and tend to horse around — a lot.
I’m typically a disciplined person and loved playing sports as a kid so this behavior confuses me. In turn, I fight the urge to burst out yelling at them to knock it off, balanced with having fun and learning the game.
There are some older kids on the team and this is an awkward age. Most of the time, I think these boys are just trying to find their way in the universe. I’m glad they have this outlet and experience to play and develop in a safe environment.
I suspect some of the less experienced or less athletically gifted kids are trying to hide behind humor or sarcasm. I get it. At this stage, you want to fit in. You want to be the cool kid. You want to be the all-star.
I imagine it’s difficult for great athletes to become great coaches. (Not saying I’m a great athlete — good maybe.) Often, I find myself struggling to articulate the right words to demonstrate the outcome a player needs to produce. Being skilled at sports, I’m more apt to say, “Here…like this…” and perform the move. My muscle memory is attuned such that it’s hard to describe.
We played a match yesterday where the head coach wasn’t able to make it. The boys played great and despite losing 2 sets, they took the games to the wire and improved tremendously over the previous match.
I prepared some words of wisdom and delivered those before the game. I’m not sure there was much wisdom though. At the end of the day, a coach can only help prepare the team and the players for the game. As much as I would love to, I can’t step on that court or field.
With no hope of a storied coaching career, I’ve resigned myself to mentoring these boys, encouraging them, helping them to improve, and trying to demonstrate good character and be a good role model.
I may not be a great coach and while I can still play pretty well (at least for an old guy), I can help guide and mold these boys into becoming young men of character who give their best in life.
Winning at life has far more value than winning a game — I love winning games though.