Dear parent in the crowd,
I am beyond pleased your child decided to join this sport. As a former athlete, nothing makes me smile more than seeing a child on the field or in the arena discovering their love for the game. Even if they decide they don’t like it or it’s not for them, it will still be a learning experience, and I’m happy to walk your child through that journey. Before this season takes off, there are some things I’d like you to know.
The first thing you should know is that I am volunteering. That means I will be scheduling practices and games, getting to know and care for every player on our team, watching players’ skills and fundamentals, and managing a group of exuberant kids, all while keeping an eye on injuries, behaviors, hydration levels, time, and equipment without any pay. If you think being a coach starts and stops on the field or in the arena, you are wrong. I go about my entire day excitedly brainstorming new drills and activities to use in our practice, and reflect nightly on how successful the drills were. I do all of this in addition to going to school and working two jobs, leaving me with little time to wind down. If you ask me why, I can quickly tell you no other job in this world offers me a better pay-off than seeing young people grow as not only players, but develop life skills and teamwork qualities that can carry them throughout life.
The second thing you should know is that coaching isn’t easy. I am not only teaching young people the game, but I am also managing parents and dealing with referees. Sometimes I will give your child a suggestion on how to do a skill differently, only to have to repeat myself dozens of times in order to see a remote change. Sometimes I explain a team strategy, only to see players forget or do the opposite. Parents see the game from the stands, but they don’t always see or hear what I am demonstrating in practice or reiterating during games. Often times, referees will mess up a call, which sometimes affects the entire outcome of the game. Sometimes, our team will work unbelievably hard and make vast improvements all week, only to lose the following game. Sometimes parents don’t agree on playing time or positions, and we always hear about it. I promise I am making my best judgments on who to put where, and try to play all kids equally. Again, we are all here because we love the game, not because of politics or personal opinions. Coaching is a difficult task, and we ask you respect that.
The last thing you should know is that coaches are human. We make mistakes. In fact, I’m sure every coach regardless of the sport has made a mistake and has bettered their coaching style because of it. Yes, I may have forgotten to email you back. Yes, I may have lost track of time and kept your child over a few minutes. Yes, I sometimes forgot your name. As a human, perfection is rarely achieved in any form. How are coaches any different? I’m sure you’ve left the oven on once. I’m sure you’ve been late to work or to a meeting. I’m sure you’ve forgotten to call someone back after a long day. I don’t expect you to be perfect, so please be respectful and empathetic if I do make a mistake. As I’ve said already, coaching is the art of multi-tasking, and is a difficult task, and I am bound to make a mistake or two.
It’s not always easy being a parent in the stands. Many times the only tool you have to use is your voice and your hands. This makes vocalizing comments or cheers pure instinct. While it is important to cheer the team on, and I would hope you’d do so, when something doesn’t go our way and you want to holler, just remember this letter. Remember what coaches go through in order to give your child the best experience possible. Remember who we are and where we are coming from. Put yourself in our shoes and see the multitude of things we orchestrate every practice and game. It’s okay to think critically about our coaching styles, the flow of the game, and your child’s enjoyment, but remember, after everything, this is just a game and we are all here for the same reasons: to experience the joy of the sport.
Your volunteer coach.