I mentioned in yesterday’s post an assistant football coach of Oz’s that walked off the field during their last practice in frustration and took all of the gear, leaving his kid. It’s very Godfather…leave the kid, take the cannoli (I mean gear.) Well, what I didn’t get into was the minor e-mail shit storm that happened afterwards. There seems to be a need for some damage control when a coach loses his cool during a practice.
A few parents weren’t as Caribbean (relax mon, it’s all good) about the whole situation as we were over here. And I quickly realized why. History. Some parents have history with this guy in other coaching situations. It quickly brought me back to being a sport parent in small town Minnesota while my twins were child athletes in the intense, D1 Scout’s crowding the bleachers sports such as indoor soccer; volleyball; outdoor soccer (which only lasted one season as Za took an ice cold ball to the face and declared her soccer career officially over.) Not all walks down memory lane are pleasant. This one is the hardest.
This is the story I want to tell these parent’s whose frustration have bubbled up enough to walk into each season on edge in the knowledge that only a few (few being a couple handfuls of dads) folks run the show of youth sports to stick close to their own kids. Yes, these people give their time and energy to coach and that should always be appreciated. But there’s a reason why Minneapolis and surrounding hockey associations have the rule in place that parents can not coach their own child’s team. It’s called nepotism and in many cases, rules small town or association athletics until these dad’s need to release their kids into the High School sports.
In Hutchinson, there seemed to be a hierarchy in place. There were the dads with money who coached. They were the cool guys (remember, many of these dads were born and raised in Hutchinson. Never left. If they were cool in High School, they were still cool. If they weren’t, well just move cuz you’ll never be…unless you have big money or a big title.) The next layer of guys were those that could socialize with the cool guys at sports functions but not outside of them.
Then there was the 3rd layer, in my opinion, the worst. The outliers. Those who so wanted to be part of the cool group that they would do anything; say anything; sell shit on anyone to be taken into the cool group just for a moment or two. These were the assistant coaches. Didn’t quite hold enough power for a head coach position, but willing to do the grunt work to be a part of it. It was high school. And I hated high school.
But this story is about my failure, not theirs. The problem with living in a town 2.5 miles long in the middle of corn fields is that your world becomes very small. Politics in youth sports took on too much meaning, making me miserable and therefore my children miserable. I was hard on them. So hard on them. Be the perfect athlete. Not the best, but the most perfect. See, we weren’t even on the radar of the layers of cool to dud’s, we were outsider’s. Newbies. So work the hardest, absolutely no goofing off, just fucking work and shut up about it. Or something to that affect. Don’t give any of these cool guys any ammunition as to why they won’t play you.
It was a mess. I basically stole, little by little, as much fun from youth sports as I possibly could. My Zac, who was dribbling a basketball before he could walk; is still one of the most athletic people I know and who will excel at anything he tries, slowly lost his love for sports. I did that. Me. I let the cool guys come into our home and make sports miserable. My thinking was the more I fought the cool guys, the more reason would be used and EVERYONE would have a fair shot at playing. But the cool guys ruled, actually probably still do and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.
So I learned. But I took down my Zs in the process. Unacceptable. Yes, I’ve apologized. Yes, they’ve moved on. But it’s a mark on my heart. Probably always will be.
So now I see these sets of parents and their mounting frustration at this coach’s ability to continue to behave badly in youth sports and I just want to say, let it go. Back off and let it go. Stay out of it. Your kid is fine, stay out of it. Make this stuff fun, don’t get so far in the suck that you lose sight of the fact that the purpose of youth sports is to make friends; learn some skills; and enjoy the post game treats. If they’re not having fun and it’s because the coach isn’t playing them, do your best to find help. If one coach won’t answer your e-mails, go to another one. But stay out of the suck. It frustrates you and ultimately may take some joy out of this sport thing for your kid. Look around, are there other kids not playing? Talk to their parent’s, not in a bitching way but in a ‘is there some other help we can get so our boys improve’ way?
And if it’s bad enough that you absolutely can’t stay quiet, send a well written, non emotional letter stating your concerns to the board or the A.D. THEN let it go. We recognize that youth sports must balance learning AND winning. We want to win, we want our kids to win, coaches want a winning record. That’s ok. It’s ok to want to win. As parents we want our kid to be part of that win, yes? That’s fair and when that doesn’t happen, it makes us look for answers. That’s fair also. But when growing frustration begins to chip away at the fun kids are having, we’re too far in the suck. Back away. Keep it fun.
We obviously had expectations for Oz this year. Work hard, pay attention, be a good teammate. With coach Courtright’s help, he met those terms. Reasonable, I’ve become reasonable in my elder age. I wish I would have found that 15 years ago.
Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.