Many kids in the community refer to me as "Coach Sam." This titled has been earned. Hours of protecting myself from being hit with a bat, baseball, or hockey puck. Tons of close calls when a kid would hit a ball right back at me and almost create an America's Funniest Video moment. Hours of little kids crying because they did not get a treat or because they just didn't want to wear shoes. More time than I would like to admit dealing with little Johnny's parents who think he, at the age of 5, is clearly a special athlete.
Hours and hours of having to be at the ball park or rink first. It is weird when you look back on it. Before any feelings can settle you find yourself looking forward to it.
For every kid that was pitching wobblers instead of baseballs there was a kid that just stole my heart. For every kid that had demanding parents there was a child that just needed to smile and have the pressure taken off. So, it is a weird thing for me and I am guessing most coaches feel the same.
This is a hard subject to really dive into because it can easily spin off into "why sports are important" argument. That is for another day...
When I was 9, I had a coach that was relentless. This guy had problems. In standard form I was resistant to his yelling. Half-court shots and a variety of ill-advised decisions to fight back. Ultimately I would act tough, try to perform, and try to please. I'll never forget barely making it to my mom's car and just busting open in tears on more than one occasion. This guy would probably get arrested these days. That's what I remember about that coach and that is one of the reasons I am so involved. I see versions of him all over the place.
The weird thing about this reflection is thinking about my kids. Like, my actual kids. They have often had to be at the ballpark or the rink early with me. You might think I have a couple of real go-getters on my hands. Maybe the easiest way for me to explain "Coach Sam" to the world is this:
My youngest is the epitome of a non sports kid. He loves his best friend that plays hockey. He can take or leave the sport but cannot take or leave his friend. I spend their practices laughing at them. To have one incredibly cute kid is one thing, but two? It is magical. (For the record, I find almost all the kids to be really funny at age 7U)
They are learning the game along with the rest of the kids. They are trying hard. They, for the most part, follow directions. They are little kids acting like little kids and they are having fun. The fact that my little one does not feel pressure means I am walking the walk, at least with him.
My oldest, he is adamant that I coach him but I sometimes wonder why. At the tender age of 9 he can do so many things well. The kid is good at hockey, baseball, wakeboarding, water skiing, piano, rock climbing, and even stuff like ping-pong...I mean table tennis. I will gladly report he is not good at video games!!!!
Parents key in on their own children and get tunnel vision. Every mistake is magnified. I mean magnified. Guess what folks, the same goes for Coach Sam. It is a real struggle not to let "Bad Coach Sam" out of the closet. The one that wants to say, "I will take your little a@@ home if you don't skate hard" or "I don't even know why I do this." The urge to give him laser eyes is very present.
Yep, those are things that come to my mind. Human, I am.
When our expectations don't match reality, we become a bad version of ourselves. Yes, I have made my son cry in a batting cage. I have also sat down with him afterwards and had a very open discussion about why I was upset and how it is important for us to apologize and learn from our mistakes. My relationship with my oldest is even deeper because of the coaching. Even with the bad times. He has learned that people can and will make mistakes. In turn he has learned it is important for him to do his job.
He knows that I not only care about him, but the other kids as well. He has learned that the "game" is bigger than the rink or the park. He has seen other coach’s act like idiots and expressed gratitude that I am not like them. He knows respect is a two-way street. He knows that it takes a lot of people volunteering their time to make these sports organizations work.
Yeah, that feels good to type. Soon Coach Sam will be a thing of the past. The kids grow fast and they move on. Just like all things having to do with young kids, I try to hold on to the moments. The kids I coach may never remember me. I cannot remember all the people that coached me. But...some of the coolest lessons I have learned are from guys that did not give up on me when they had every reason. I remember looking at a coach and just seeing how proud he was of me. If these kids remember Coach Sam, hopefully it is that I cared, or at the very least, I got hit in the you know what with a baseball or puck.