Friday, July 20, 2012
Coach Eric — that has been my official title this week as I’ve spent my evenings helping out at my church’s VBS sports camp. It’s been a fun time with our group of a dozen children in grades one through six, who chose basketball over soccer and volleyball.
I’ve always said I wasn’t interested in coaching a Little League sports team. I’ve had plenty of experience with coaches through the years. I had many as I grew up playing sports. I’ve also seen and heard many coaches lead their teams during my career as sports reporter.
These experiences have soured my desire to coach. First, I’ve seen way too many coaches push their young players too hard to win. And I’ve witnessed that pressure resulting in crying athletes and the feeling that “trying your best” just isn’t good enough.
Some coaches take things to the extreme — foul language, verbal abuse and embarrassing players in front of their peers and parents. This approach to coaching is more common than you think. Certainly, not every coach acts in this manner, but one is too many.
I’m sure being a coach has its challenges. And, like a Little League umpire, coaches are open to criticism and are underappreciated. Coaches deal with parents pushing for more playing time for their athlete and the expectations of winning, among other things.
But that’s still no excuse to set a bad example with bad behavior. How many stories have you heard, or seen first-hand, where coaches and/or parents steal the spotlight over a bad call by the umpire? In some cases, the parents and coaches stand there shouting insults while all the players want to do is play ball.
I know how competitive a person I am. I play for fun, but winning is always my goal. I think this approach can be a healthy one, as long as attitudes and emotions can be held in check. When I’m competing at something, I’m critical of my own performance.
But when teaching a little boy how to make a lay-up or how to execute a crossover dribble, there’s no negative in my voice. These children chose the basketball camp to learn fundamentals of the game and have fun. They need teaching and encouragement, not to be told they will never amount to a basketball player.
I’ve had fun getting to know the basketball bunch this week and equipping them with the basics of the sport. There have been lots of smiles and successes this week. I think as a coach, the goal is to provide both.
I’m content with being just a sports camp coach, instead of leading a team playing in a super competitive league. I’ll take the teaching and fun over the pressure to win every game by 50 points.
Sports can be fun — it’s time more coaches — and parents — remember that. If they do, there won’t be as much ‘crying in baseball.’