We weren’t out of the rink three steps when he told me, “I was wrong about coach. He is not a good coach at all. He’s an **s.”
I was a little bit expecting this but secretly holding my breath that he had not noticed. The weekend previous we had a different coach on the bench and the boys really responded to him. We had the best game of our season. The parents were involved. There was a real sense of team. It was exhilarating. And we hoped that coach would hear about this from his son and take a page out of this young mans book to keep inspiring the team.
After this weeks practice our coach said to the team, “I asked, Joe (for the sake of this post), to coach you guys this past weekend so he could get through to you. To tell you the same thing I have been telling you all season.”
That is the moment I knew my son’s opinion of his coach was about to change. Because this man was lying to them. He asked someone to coach for the weekend cause he was out of town and no one else on the team had the proper forms signed to take over for the day. And what Joe shared with the boys was nothing like what coach was doing.
My son went onto share that at this last game, coach said to the bench, “you are impossible to coach.”
At this point I might have lost my cool.
Let’s step back and get a wider look at what is happening here. There is a locker room full, twice a week, of young boys who like to play hockey. They show up. Never once has anyone of them been rude, defiant or unwilling to take direction. Each game and practice I witness a bunch of boys giving the best they have in the moment. No one looks to coach and tells him he can not to do his job. They take what he says and work with it, in the way their 11 and 12 year old selves can.
After the game coached by Joe, I went up to him and said “thank you for showing up for these boys. You could really tell you paid attention to them and knew what they needed to hear and how to talk to them.”
His response, “Of course, these are my players and I love them.”
Joe helps out with practices on a rotating schedule as part of our program. I weld up knowing he was that committed to these boys. And it showed in how the boys played for him. He believed in them. He challenged them. He showed up.
Now I know that coach is parent volunteer and brings with him the weight of balancing a busy life. I understand that. What I don’t understand is why he agreed if he wasn’t willing to show up for these boys.
My son said to me, “I know my coach last year wasn’t very good. But at least he wanted to be there. He was enthusiastic. Coach this year, you can tell he doesn’t want to be there and is not having fun.”
It is true. He carries a burdened energy with him each time he walks in the room. I had been hoping my son would not notice. That he would make it to the end of the year without feeling, what it’s like to be a burden to someone. But he did not. He picked up on it and I heard the weight of it in his voice.
Belittling and shaming children does not work to motivate them. In fact, all it does it beat them down. This is obvious in the locker room. Where after practice you could have heard a pin drop. No one was talking to each other. They were feeling the weight of being a burden not capable of being coached. Heck, even as a parent, I was silent. Which is likely a good thing because all that could have come out of my mouth at the time was anger and I know you can’t change a mind by tossing at it just what your begging of it to stop doing.
This is an example to me, of how we as the adults in children’s life, have infinite opportunities to lift them up or put them down. How each moment the energy we carry into a room has the chance to say, you are a burden to me, or I’m happy to see you. As well, to be examples of what it means to really show up for someone. To leave what is bothering you at the door and show up to what is going on right now between you and that person.
I don’t imagine coach wants to be saying over and over with his words and language, you suck and I don’t wanna be here. But as a product of what he has come to know in the world, he is doing that week after week, day after day. And it makes me think of all the children in the world, on ball field, ice rinks and in classrooms that are hearing this very same message much more then they are hearing, you are awesome and I am so glad to know you, just as you are. Imagine with me just for a second, a world, where this is what our future generation hears, more then anything else. I don’t mean in the empty praise sense of it all. I mean in the my heart is full of you and I really do see you here in this world, as you are, figuring it out, mistake making, tantrum throwing, hearth breaking and I still with all of me presence think you are awesome. And because of that I really want to be here for the entire journey with you.
It might feel like a big job. A big job to change the minds of all the coaches, teachers, mentors, heck adults out there in the big world. But if we begin, at home, with the people we are gifted with, the ripple will happen. Cause we will be the coaches, the mentors, the voices that make up what they hear most. It is what will give our children the courage to go out in the world, confident in their sense of self and capable of making a difference by showing up with the enthusiasm of Joe.