Posted tagged ‘coaching young people.’

The Guidance and Misguidance of Coaches

September 15, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               September 15, 2019

                            

I think the first team I ever coached was the Arlington Heights, Illinois First Presbyterian Church boy’s basketball team that played in the community church league. We were mediocre at best, and probably the last basketball team experience for most of the players. But they had fun lacing up their sneakers and trying their hardest.

That was in 1979. Forty years later I’m still coaching. This year will see me coach cross-country, boy’s and girl’s basketball, and track at Timberview Middle School in Colorado Springs. It will be the first year in the last eleven that I won’t be on a high school bench for the basketball season, but the middle school teams will suit me just fine.

What I’ve learned over the years is that a coach can guide, motivate, counsel, and influence for a lifetime. The words we say and the message that our lives speak lead our athletes towards not only success, but also to what are the most important things in life.

On the other hand, coaches can misguide, destroy, and instill the wrong set of values in their athletes. The sports world is littered with stories of athletes who were abused in some way by their coaches. The sexual abuse situations make the headlines, but the verbal abusiveness rarely is heard about. 

Coaches have the opportunity to fan the flames in their athletes to become passionate about their sport of leisure, or to douse the desire with showers of destructive communication. 

Just as there are stories of helicopter parents who make life miserable for the coaches of their kids, there are tyrant coaches who bring misery into the lives of young athletes. How sad is it for a kid who puts in years and years of practice, looking forward to the time he or she can represent their school and wear the school colors, only to encounter a coach, or coaching staff, who operate from a completely different set of values. How tragic and confusing to have an adolescent from a solid well-grounded family experience a coach whose life priorities are on the other end of the spectrum!

I’ve had the opportunity to know some great coaches who are also great human beings. You can see them teach the game to their players, but also teach their players about life. And I’ve also known some coaches who are, quite simply, scoundrels. My kids were fortunate to have a number of coaches through the years who were also great human beings, the kind of coaches that your kids run up to years later and want to embrace, the kind of coaches your kids want to introduce their kids to!

Coaches whose personal lives and life values are a mess, more often than not, make a mess of things with their athletes and teams. 

Stories That We Remember

May 30, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                May 30, 2016

                              

Yesterday was an amazing day for Carol and me. The second Air Force Academy cadet that we have been a sponsor family for is graduating this week. Justin Katzovitz went to the same high school that Carol did, Hinsdale Central in Hinsdale, Illinois. Justin is Jewish. His parents were a little apprehensive about having Justin being hosted by an American Baptist pastor and his wife, but Justin said he wanted us. We’ve learned a few things about one another the past four years, like when we took him to Walmart on a Sunday night to buy Hanukkah decorations for a meal that next week. He had been assigned that task of decorating the meal table. And we realized that Hanukkah is not high on the list of products being sold at Walmart. Justin settled for a couple of strings of lights. Yesterday we attended the Jewish Baccalaureate service in the lower level of the Academy chapel. It was a warm and inviting gathering of those of the Academy Jewish community and their guests.

The speaker was a man named Joel Grishaver, a Jewish writer, teacher, and storyteller. Joel must be in his seventies and is afflicted with some form of mobility affliction that requires him to use two canes that are braced around his forearms. He told us a wonderful story about a rabbi who had died, and at a gathering for him people told story after story of how he had affected their lives.

Joel then made the point that stories connect us. Keep telling the stories. Stories draw us together in deep relationships. It was a talk that I have continued to ponder ever since I heard it.

Last night a number of young ladies that I coached in basketball at Liberty High School between 2008-2013 came over to our house for a cook-out. One of them is about to enter graduate school. Another takes her LSAT exam next month. One of them graduated college and is now in that anxious period called “job search process.” Two others are entering their final semester, or year of college. Three are about to begin college, and another will be a second-year Cornhusker.

We ate around our patio table on the back deck, laughed, laughed some more, and we told stories. Stories of past events and things that were said that will always be remembered. The story of Katie Cahn getting her two front teeth knocked out in practice, which wasn’t funny at the time it happened, but was described in detail with laughter last night. The huge mouth guards that Katie Upton and Amanda Dix wore in vivid red and blue colors, and especially wore them after Katie Cahn lost her teeth! The picture of the female Goliath that Alex Rivas had on her cell phone that she was suppose to try to tackle in a women’s rugby game at Colorado University. Kayla Childs’ stories from her incredible trip to Cambodia. Kira Comfort’s stories of breaking bones and learning the game of golf… a non-contact sport! Emily Aldrich’s story of a less than friendly verbal exchange with a Palmer Terror player one game.

We sat and shared stories, and laughed, and exaggerated, and laughed, and then told stories of others who weren’t with us last night at the gathering.

Stories connect us and deepen the depth and strength of the roots of the relationships. By the end of the evening people were shivering with a mixture of chills and chuckles. As Joel Grishaver had told the Jewish cadet graduates that morning about the power of stories, I saw it being experienced last night.