Tuesday, February 24, 2015

To Ms. Basketball mom that I observed by the coat rack,

I was at the gym, putting my coat up on the rack. 

You were standing nearby, talking to another mom. Both of your teenage sons stood next to you, listening to every word you said.

You were saying very unkind things about your son's basketball coach while your boys stood and listened.

And not only were you saying unkind things, but you were saying wrong things.

"I mean the coach said that if he wants more playing time, he has to get more aggressive," you began. "What does that mean anyway? If you want him to be more aggressive, you have to tell him how to be more aggressive. Tell him what to do and he'll do it."

Then you put the nail in the coffin. "So, we won't be at the last game. I'm not putting up with that kind of behavior."

It took everything in my BEING to not stop you right there and give you a HUGE piece of MY mind.

Firstly, my qualifications. I am the daughter of a coach. Spent my entire childhood observing, participating, and listening to coaching. I was a gym rat to my core. Then I was an athlete. I played both basketball and volleyball competitively and was offered full scholarships to Division I schools in both sports. I chose to play basketball at Western Kentucky University. Following four years as a college athlete, I coached for five years -- both basketball, volleyball, and even a little soccer. (I was roped into that last one.)

I know my sports. I know my sports parents. I know my sports athletes. 

And if I weren't such a wimp, I would have stopped right then and piped in. Because you needed to get a piece of my mind.

So, in no particular order, may I break apart and stomp on your little rant:

Chances are Ms. Basketball mom that I observed by the coat rack, you have never played a sport. And if you have, I find it unlikely it was basketball. Because if it was basketball, you would never have considered asking a coach to dissect the word aggressive. I'm not sure you understand what the word aggressive means. It is NOT something you can be taught. You can try to teach it, but the truth is, a child is either aggressive on the court or they are not. You can encourage them, but it isn't like teaching them an out-of-bounds play. It doesn't work that way. (If you don't know what an out-of-bounds play is, I'll need another post to explain that one.)

Chances are Ms. Basketball mom that I observed by the coat rack, that while you love your son immensely, you have started to lose sight of the point of childhood athletics. Do you understand what it is you are trying to teach your son? I devoted nearly every waking hour of my life until I was 21 to basketball and volleyball. Most kids are completely done with competitive sports at 18. If they are VERY lucky, they will get to play a little bit in college. Nearly no one goes beyond 21. I am now 37 years old which means the last 16 years of my life have been away from the game. What I was learning had nearly nothing to do with playing a sport and everything to do with learning diligence, determination, disappointments, coordination, teamwork, and other important skills. Are you using this opportunity to teach your son about life's disappointments and how he can confront the coach and discuss his lack of playing time? Some of the greatest lessons I learned were during some of the most unfair things. (Think not making the all-state team because another coach cheated when voting. Yes, that happened to me.)

Chances are Ms. Basketball mom that I observed by the coat rack, that you are forgetting that your son's coach is probably unpaid and volunteering his time. Or if he is paid, he is making less money per hour than a waiter. You could as easily decide to volunteer your time to help coach or coach your own team, but you don't. You are forgetting that he has another full-time job and that he does this to help and support kids or possibly because he was guilt-tripped into doing it with the fear that some kids wouldn't be able to play if he didn't. He may not be the best coach in the world. This may be the first time he is doing it. He may be learning too. 

Chances are Ms. Basketball mom that I observed by the coat rack, that you don't understand the mentality of coaches. They are sitting on the bench, at all times, racking their brain with how to make all the players (and parents) on their team happy. They are trying to figure out how to get your son more playing time without losing the game and upsetting a whole 'nother group of kids and parents. They are trying to do the right thing by everyone. 

Chances are Ms. Basketball mom that I observed by the coat rack, that you have never attempted to get 12 individuals to work together as a team to accomplish a goal and not look like fools and actually win. Do you know how hard it is to get 12 adults to work together? Now try to take 12 hormonal teenagers and mold them into a team that actually works together and scores points. It is an art so fine and so stressful that it kept me awake at night. It is beyond difficult. Some days I felt it was not possible.

Chances are Ms. Basketball mom that I observed by the coat rack, that you have forgotten that your son is watching you. He is learning far more about life from this conversation by the coat rack then he is on the court. He is learning that is okay to talk about people if you are mad enough. He is learning that it is okay to skip out and let your team down if it isn't working for you. And he is learning that respecting authority is only important if it works for you.

So there you have it. I don't think you'll ever read this post. But my hopes is that another mom and dad will and will think twice before they forget the WHOLE POINT OF YOUTH SPORTS.

We are helping mold successful adults ...

Not successful athletes.

And if we can teach the parents a thing or two in the midst of it, we'll all be better for it.


Anonymous said...

Wow! Sure would love you go be able to teach a class to parents of athletes! Being a coaches wife for 40 years and mother of athletes, I have been amazed at the comments I hear. That is one of the reason I prefer keeping the scorebook than sitting in the stands because so many think they know what the coach should be doing. I have been seeing more and more disrespect from players....wonder where that starts? I think sports can be an awesome tool for life lessons but coaches need support

Anonymous said...

Amen, Sister! My husband is taking on the task of coaching the boys' 11u baseball team this summer. I worry a bit because some of the parents are very outspoken and are all about winning. As my husband says, they feel it is an accomplishment to complain. I know my husband will give all players as equal playing time as he can. I know that he will want to win, but will put learning skills and teamwork and life lessons above winning the game. I worry about being the wife of the coach and the mother of boys who may get more playing time than other boys (not because their dad is the coach, but because of their skill level. Regardless of the reason, those parents will think that it's because their dad is the coach). I know I need to set an example, not just for my boys, but for the other parents as well. I also know where I rank among the other baseball moms, which is towards the bottom, and I'm ok with that. I've never been popular and don't need to be popular. I also worry about my husband being able to stand firm in his decisions to play or not to play certain boys. Anyway, you understand what I'm saying. In small towns, really anywhere, it's hard to stand up to "Ms. Basketball mom that I observed by the coat rack." Thanks for posting this. I always love to read your blogs about sports. I have read them to my boys before. Thanks again for your wise words of wisdom.


Janna Deweese said...

Very well said Coach K !!! You made a huge impact on my daughter when you were coaching! The world needs more strong women like you! God bless you!