By Lana Turnbull
Every year hundreds of thousands of American kids take to the soccer and football fields, the basketball courts, the baseball diamonds, the tennis courts, golf courses…the list goes on and on. One thing these sports all have in common is a coach, a leader, a mentor – an adult who teaches the basic rules of the game, encourages good sportsmanship, and praises effort and accomplishment.
As a woman who raised a son by myself through the years of little league, youth soccer and basketball, I know the important role my son’s coaches played in his life. That’s why I want to recognize those brave men and women, many moms or dads themselves, who volunteer to coach a team of kids, not for the glory (because, let’s face it, it’s not a vastly appreciated role), but for the simple reason that they are needed and they want to be there to show kids that sports are fun, being active is crucial to having a healthy body, and being a good team player is one of the most important life skills they will ever learn.
The fact is, for a lot of kids, a coach may be one of the first positive role models they will have after a parent or teacher. The coach is in a position to have a tremendous impact on how a child thinks of himself and others. Some of my own husband’s fondest childhood memories are of when his dad coached his little league team. There was the usual advice about good batting form, and warnings about sliding and stealing bases, but most memorable was the sound of his dad’s voice booming above the crowd cheering him to home plate. Imagine how many pro athletes and Olympic champions trace their success back to the first encouraging coach who saw something special in them and inspired them to strive to do their best, not just on the field but in the classroom and in life.
We can’t all be good coaches. As an athletically challenged mom myself, I always knew that coaching would not be the way to go, lest I cause my son and his teammates some kind of permanent athletic dysfunction. However, I could hand out of mean juice box, cheer from the stands, and try my best not to kick the person in front of me when my son had a shot at a goal. (The “incontrollable mom kicking reflex” is almost as strong as the “incontrollable mom arm guard syndrome” that flies into action during sudden stops in the car.)
When we head to the fields of play this fall, let’s remember the coaches. In most ways they are just like us. They are tired and stressed after a long day at work. They have other places they might like to be. They already have enough details to remember without adding a car full of well-inflated soccer balls to the list, but they choose to make time for the kids.
Here’s to all the coaches…may they know how much it means for a child to have someone to tell them good play, or ‘at a boy, great game or way to be a good sport. Here’s to the coaches…pass those men (and women) another juice box. They deserve it.