When you think back to your childhood, what adults were present in your life (besides your parents) that made a lasting impact on you? Who is it to this day, you still have a relationship with or when thinking about this person, it seems as though you spoke yesterday – the memories are that vivid. In retrospect, you can hear the tone of their voice, see the expressions on their face, and remember what clothes they wore or how they did their hair. Who did you look up to? Who gave you confidence when you hardly believed in yourself? Who was the person that you went to for advice when you felt like your parents would not understand or hear what you were trying to say?
Did you have someone you knew, without a doubt, would be there for you if you needed them? Someone who would discipline you at the precise moment you needed it and knew you well enough to realize exactly when you needed that hug or high-5 (even if you acted like you didn’t). Someone who would yell at you because they knew you could do better; and when a “See! I told you so” was expressed; a smile would form across your face because you felt so good that they were proud of you. Was there a person who taught you MORE than what they were supposed to? A person, who taught, motivated, inspired, trusted…..and together shared laughter, sadness, determination, elation, hurt, empathy, satisfaction, concern, and pride.
Was this person an aunt or uncle? A grandparent? Neighbor? Maybe an older cousin or a family friend. For me it was none of the previously mentioned. However, I was lucky enough to have several of these people in my life; probably when I needed it the most – from around age 12-18. Bob, Doug, Ed, Lynn, Jim, Sam. These were my coaches.
I grew up trying several sports: gymnastics, track and field, basketball, tennis and diving. Gymnastics – I grew too tall, too quickly and couldn’t get my body to flip around fast enough on that floor. Track and field – I loved it, but it was not my passion. Basketball – oh boy! That was rough! My parents insisted that I play a team sport (which I understand now) but plain and simple; I sucked. Tennis – it was fun; a life-long sport that I still enjoy playing. I remember each and every coach that I had for each and every sport. Diving was my sport though; and those coaches made a difference in my life.
I started diving at Wakefield Chapel (our summer pool) when I was about 7 years old. I dove every single summer; practicing with my team each early summer morning before the pool opened and participating in meets on the weekends. By the time I was 12, I was on a club team (Northern Virginia Dive Club) diving six days a week for hours each day; as well as being part of my summer dive team at Mantua. I dove 1-meter, 3-meter, practiced on the trampoline, did conditioning and stretching, and traveled to Maryland every weekend to dive platform. We would practice, practice, practice and practice some more…and then travel on the weekends. Up and down the east coast to big meets about once a month; those memories are vivid and we always had a blast! Looking back, I just wish I had more confidence in myself than I did. My coaches – they had confidence in me. They were there when I needed them. They made it those events some of the most memorable times of my childhood and provided consistent encouragement.
Now, I experience the coaching world from a parent’s point of view. I watch as Jordan’s baseball coach teaches him the game, shows him how to stand and where to hold the bat with constant optimism. Patting him on the back as they jog onto the field and whispering in his ear “great job, Jordan; next time it will be a double.” This coach teaches every kid to work as a team, to always support each other, to be good sports, play with a smile and to respect other coaches and players – always. “These are lessons you will remember for the rest of your life and friendships that will last years,” he explains to them “so listen up and have fun out there!” He is a source of motivation.
Kendall’s basketball coach has the same qualities. He gets these girls excited to practice and play every game. He brings them together as a team, reinforcing their strengths and enhancing their weaknesses; making sure that even the 7 year old girl who bounces the ball off of her foot every time she gets her hands on it, is enjoying the game. These girls in the gold and blue uniforms are young and some could care less about basketball, but they are working together and learning invaluable lessons.
With that being said, I have experienced many “coaches” over the past several years who are out there just to fill a spot. I am not sure why they are coaching. They do not seem to enjoy it and the kids are not experiencing that positive team cohesiveness that comes with a great coach. It is sad actually. My hope is that every child gets to experience at least one coach or teacher is his/her lifetime like Jordan’s baseball coach or Kendall’s basketball coach.
Watching Jay coach these kids makes me proud. Proud that he is sharing this talent with as many kids as he can; and proud that he is the father of my children. At the same time, it reminds me of how lucky I was to have such influential coaches in my life.