Thank you for teaching your athlete to respect their coach. To try their hardest in school and at practice. If there is a concern, thank you for teaching your child to come to coach instead of badmouthing to peers.
These are stories we hear every year —
Coaches developing chronic panic attacks. Players suffering from depression or anxiety. Coaches becoming physically ill due to mental distress. Coaches and players struggling to navigate online criticism.
The “will there be a season” question seemed silly in March because, well, it was March.
But somewhere between the cancellation of Spring football and the news today, the question felt like a weight pressing on my chest.
In this unprecedented time of uncertainty, that is the one thing of which I am sure. Even if you don’t step on that field again, your senior season matters.
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But I need you to know how much I love you when you are losing. I see you bring out the best you have to offer your athletes when you are losing.
I was not prepared for the pride and joy in this investment. Over and over I find that my heart is not prepared, but in many ways I can’t fully explain, instead it is renewed and repaired.
Next, there is a time and a place for this conversation. It is not now, not after a game, no matter the outcome. It is not while his family, friends, colleagues, and community are watching. Not in the middle of the field or outside the locker room. Certainly not at the volume you are speaking; the time and the place is not now.
I sat in that gym while my husband played basketball with my favorite teenager for hours after practice. No talking, no crying, just turning all his emotions into jump shots and the world’s biggest hug when we took him home. That’s all he needed.
We wanted an intentional way for our boys to process the experiences and emotions of the season rather than “just” having them turn in their equipment and move on to the next thing.
It truly is a special thing to see when teammates and coaches come alongside their hurting brother and lift them up.
Always remember that I learn from the examples that I see. You are my first heroes and who I want to be when I grow up. Please set out large shoes for me to fill. I am counting on you.
I look for her now. I’ll glance at the stands and see if she’s there. She’s forever my reminder that supporting the ones we love is the only reason any of us should be there. I try to take her enthusiasm, authenticity, and gratitude and tuck it into my soul, remember there is something about love that gets amplified by sports.
Remember that we coach in their sacred spaces. We are coaching the people they have loved, raised, cried, and prayed over long before we got them. For some, we are coaching their validation of self. I’m not making excuses for poor behavior, I’m offering a space for us to gather some empathy for the seemingly extreme reactions.
So when you come home to visit your family, don’t forget to come visit ours too. If you’re passing our house on the way out of town and you think about pulling in the driveway, do it. That bonus room in the new house is being built with you boys in mind—a place where the boys can always gather. And if you come to a game, you better give me a hug.
My professional training is as a mental health therapist so I assume that is why we have received quite a few of these phone calls from coaching colleagues over the years. Through our own difficult experiences and those of others, I am hopeful that I may be able to share some tips here that can help your family navigate these tragic situations with a little more secure footing.
Mostly though, Seniors, I want you to remember that your place at our dinner table is still there and we are always a phone call away. We understand that family ties are not exclusively created with blood, and we are always happy to welcome teammates back home.
You know what IS the best for them?
Working harder than everyone else.
Getting better just for the sake of being better than they were yesterday.
Learning to have hard conversations.
Staying late at practice.
Taking extra shots.
Running extra sprints.
Busting their tail in offseason.
Thank you to the dad who poured his entire can of Pepsi on my son’s leg because he got into some poison ivy in hopes the acid would maybe stop a reaction.
Thank you to the parents who see me struggling to carry two children and half my house to my seat and offer to help.
The ones who scoop my three-year-old up and says, "I have him, he can sit with us tonight”.
But, it seems as though once it’s over, we are missing something. The end of the season messes with my mo-jo.