You’re not supposed to write stuff when you’re angry. I preach a 24-hour cool-off period, in fact, I even strive for 48 hours. Why? Because when you’re angry you say things you are going to regret. Some things need to be said though with sweat pouring down your face and blood boiling.
Here it goes:
When you’re a kid you are told to stand up for what you believe in. You are told to do it even if you stand alone. “Be brave” they say, or my favourite, “disrupt the status-quo”. When you became part of a gang of people who made a poor choice (or didn’t do anything at all) you all got yelled at and punished. You were told, “Just because your friends told you to do it doesn’t mean you have to do it. You are your own person.” Obviously this whole “be your own person” stuff is highly glorified because as I’ve learned there are more adults who are part of that gang of do-nothingers than those who should be the role models for disrupting the status-quo. People say, “you have to pick your battles.” Well, I always thought practicing what you preach to your children was the greatest battle you could pursue.
When you truly love your job and what you do, it shows. People feel it, they see it and while you will make many mistakes, your intentions are usually good (with the occasional karma move but don’t tell me you’re perfect). You will come into the business of kid coaching with different philosophies but 99% of kid coaches are going into it because they think they can make people better. By people, I mean…your children. Many coaches love your kids more than you think. Our job doesn’t end when practice is over. We are connected to them, we want to know how they’re doing in school, home, social life…we want to make sure their outside life is good so that their sport life is even better. We push your kids. Most of us push them outside of sport too. We except them to achieve good marks, be proactive in school, and to balance school and sport equally (this is a learning process we build through tough-love and an endless back of support). We know parents are crazy. I can’t even tell you the number of emails I’ve gotten that start with, “I’m usually never a complainer but…” or “I don’t want to cause trouble but…” I get it, but I’m also not fooled. You are causing trouble but I’ll get over it and find a solution. If not, we can awkwardly co-exist for the next little while. At the end of the day how your kid looks on the field, on the water, on the ice, whatever it might be, it is a reflection of what you and I have supported. Honestly, the F-word goes off in my head a few times when kids do dumb things or parents say dumb things…but my heart breaks when an athlete cries because they didn’t reach their goal. Yours does too. We have to put on a brave face and a mentor face. We have to lay accountability to where it needs to go but in our minds, those tears break our hearts. When a kid quits or leaves the sport, it breaks our hearts because we love the sport. We love sharing it with your children. Coaches are independent people. We can work as a team but we really like what we bring to the table. Coaches drive each other crazy. However, if there is one thing we can all settle on it is that kids are the top priority and the training is the second priority. Kids respond to training that is encouraging yet challenge-driven, varied and that has short-term and long-term results. While we see the long-term, kids like to see the short-term. We try and meet both. I have hardly gotten emails about the training but I get the most emails when it comes to competitions. People have requests for crews, kids have anxieties over race-distances, parents do not know what races their kids are in. Unfortunately we don’t have a curriculum night or a pamphlet to hand out with what they will be doing at a regatta. So we do our best to lead people to the answers or better, empower kids to do it for themselves. For the most part, we end up with “Thank you so much, we appreciate it. If there’s anything we can do for you let us know.”
That final phrase means a lot. It could mean fetching us a coffee before the races begin or it could mean running out to the store to get tape for the numbers midway through. But I’ve also felt the jab of that phrase not once now, but twice. “If there’s anything we can do for you let us know.” I would like to begin…yes. There is something you can do. You can support the platform we stand on and trust that though we are insane, the kids come first. When you are not happy with a decision from the top, you can speak up, in fact, you should speak up. The biggest fear is that speaking up will mean someone will suffer and you are right; kids will often bear the brunt of their parents actions (have you seen Dance Moms recently?). But as much as parents who speak up drive me utterly nuts there is something I truly value: They showed their children that they are their own person. They disrupted the status-quo. Your coaches are at the bottom of the sport scale usually, in terms of both power and money. This is not surprising and it’s a choice we made ourselves because we love the sport and we love your kids. As strong as we may be in our philosophies, our training or our passion, our kids and their families are stronger. Collectively they are the backbone to what makes a sport group exist. I’ve heard people compare families to sheep and they go where the dog pushes them because so long as there is grass, they will listen to the dog. I do not think this is necessarily true but it’s a good way to control the masses. Coaches listen to both and put the “dogs and sheep” on the same level. We work overtime for your kids sports…not even school, guys…sports. We try and make connections so that even the least-skilled of kids still have a reason to show up to practice each day. Each day we are met with the requests of many and the resources of few. We stand up for your kids when you’re not looking. They might be getting taunted by athletes from other teams. We might’ve fetched them water or gave them our own because they couldn’t find you. We stand outside until the very last kid comes in from the run, no matter what the weather. We do whatever we can to make sure a kid can go to practice even if it means taking time out of our day to make it happen. We are stuck between staying authentic and following order. Our efforts are recognized through the kids successes but usually not as individuals. However, despite that, we do it.
“If there’s anything we can do for your let us know.”
There is something you can do. You can speak up and ask questions. Nobody said there had to be a herd mentality. Coaches have been sole farmers for years. When there is something that is not right you owe it to your children to show what you do to make a change. We’ve been trying to empower your children for as long as they’ve been with us. There are no limits to where or who these examples can be.
While the lessons we learned when were kids contradict a large part of what adult-life seems to be about I am a true believer in this: “If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.”
We will continue standing even if it means we stand in more than one place, several times, but where are you falling?