My husband and I took our sons to a park late this afternoon. Short sleeves, sun and sheer joy at the chance to be outside made for a great time for all of us. Although there are three and a half years difference in their ages, both boys enjoyed age-appropriate variations of climbing and sliding on the play structure as well as swinging side-by-side.
Next to the play area there are two ball fields. Today the little league teams were on the fields to practice. One team was close enough that I overheard the coach, dressed in his cap and Bermuda shorts, barking and hollering at them as they ran through drills for hitting, pitching and catching. What he said wasn’t so bad, it was the tone that got to me.
“Don’t start with a new pitch first thing – you could hurt your arm before our season has started!”
“Don’t dawdle…move it, move it!”
“What are you thinking?”
Watching my own sons enjoy the sun and being outside, I felt bad for the kids who were spending their afternoon listening to their coach yell at them. Don’t get me wrong, I played sports throughout my growing up years — soccer, tennis, cross-country — and I loved it. Although it was hard and I exerted myself, I remember having fun during those afternoon practices. From the sounds on the field today, I didn’t think it seemed all that fun.
As I listened to the coach’s orders, I reflected on the coaches I had growing up — elementary school through high school. They were amazing — dedicated, inspiring and most of all, they helped develop my confidence on and off the field. But they didn’t build my confidence by barking orders at me. In fact, they were all pretty laid back and quiet in their coaching style. I understand that part of a coach’s role is to push the athletes to their best performance. To help them build their skills and abilities. But I don’t think the only way to do that is through barking orders. My coaches are proof of that.
As my own kids get older, I hope that they will enjoy playing individual and team sports. What I realized today is that not all coaches are created equal. Not all coaches make playing sports fun. As a mama, my job will be to make sure that sports stay fun and to ensure that like me, my sons have coaches who build them up.