NEW CASTLE —
With the spring sports schedule winding to a close, I had a thought: What would a coach say if he could send a note to each of his parents to place a period on the end of a season — and look ahead to what the future holds?
Here’s what I would write. I am a basketball coach, so I use basketball terminology throughout. Feel free to insert your own child’s sports and language where suitable.
I know I don’t speak for ALL coaches in this letter. But I do speak for MOST.
It’s just a game.
It really is.
A very simple game, at that. Put the ball through a hoop. Stop the other team from doing the same.
If your team does it more times than the other, you win.
But it really isn’t that simple. Anyone who has ever played or coached the great game of basketball has discovered layer upon layer that seemingly has no beginning or no end.
Yet in reality, each season has three distinct elements at its core.
At some point, we all play one of these roles.
He or she has plenty of layers in the job:
I don’t know how coaches do it.
Then you have the most important people on the floor. Those who are asked to carry out a game plan to the best of their ability. The kids.
They hustle. They sweat. They dive for loose balls, and box out, and fill lanes, and make the right pass.
They take charges, talk on defense, deflect passes, block shots, get knocked down … and then get back up.
They may or may not appear to be listening to what their coaches say — but they hear it. Sometimes with their ears. Sometimes with their eyes.
They seize the moment. They accept the challenge. They want the ball.
I don’t know how players do it.
You don’t even have time to cash your check and it’s already committed to an AAU organization.
You don’t even have time to eat. The next game is just an hour away.
Didn’t you just fill up the tank with gas? Yep, but now we’re heading to another gym. Time to hit the road.
You were hoping for a good night’s sleep, but your child’s team drew the short straw and got the 8 a.m. game.
You were hoping to get some yard work done, but the next game isn’t until 2. All you can do is sit and wait.
You had dinner plans with longtime friends, but your son’s team won again and now they play in the title game — at the same time your dinner was scheduled.
You sacrifice your moments, your days — your life, really — so your child can learn some valuable lessons that can only be taught on a wooden floor measuring 94 feet by 50 feet.
I don’t know how parents do it.
IS IT WORTH IT?
If coaches only coach for victories, there will be plenty of dark days.
If our young people play only to score points, there will be plenty of quiet car rides home.
If parents only allow their kids to participate so their kids can be the center of the universe — well, that’s why most kids drop out of sports by age 13.
So, then, why do we do it?
Why do we spend all the money, drive so many miles, blow so many weekends and eat so much fast food?
Because we know the good that can come from sports. We have seen it firsthand.
We’ve seen the growth in coordination and agility. We’ve seen the growth in discipline and persistence. We’ve seen youngsters of different colors, of different backgrounds and of different faiths, come together as one for a common goal.
We know this doesn’t happen anywhere else. It just doesn’t.
Not in school. Not in the workplace. Certainly not in the political arena.
On the court is where it happens. For a season.
And then the season ends.
But that doesn’t mean it’s over.
It won’t mean a thing if we don’t take the lessons learned with us.
It won’t mean a thing if coaches, players and parents don’t take “the season” into our homes, schools, board rooms and voting booths.
So, as another spring basketball season winds to a close, what will you take with you?
Special memories of a group of young people coalescing into a fabulous unit? The long talks on long car rides? The laughter and silliness of eight kids sitting together at a restaurant table meant for six?
Or will you reflect only on the negative — not enough playing time, not enough wins, not enough (fill in the blank.)
If you gravitate toward the latter, I apologize. I am deeply sorry. As both a coach and a parent, my goal is first and foremost to give our young people a wonderful experience on and off the court.
I desire to inspire.
I want to even make it fun to run.
And I want the kids to develop a passion for play, and realize they have a choice to keep that flame burning in all aspects of their lives.
As a team, our goal was to be uncommon. To be different. To fulfill our God-given potential.
Did we pull it off this year?
Only you within reading distance can answer that question.
But please know I gave it my very best.
I thought of your kids any time a decision was made.
I may not have filled your cup, but I always emptied mine.
And for that, I have just one more thing to say:
Thank you for the opportunity to coach your children.
I miss it already.
Your child’s coach
(To follow Tim Kolodziej on Twitter, CLICK HERE.)