Eighteen years ago, Gary Edmonds was involved in coaching youth football in Tolono, Ill. "It was my first foray into coaching and I think I probably learned more than the players did," he recalls.
Eighteen years ago, I was involved in coaching youth football in Tolono, Ill. I had been recruited by someone that knew my love for the game. He needed an offensive coordinator for the 7th and 8th grade team and I was excited to have the opportunity. It was my first foray into coaching and I think I probably learned more than the players did.
We had a really good year (great players, not great coaching) and had just completed a perfect 8-0 season. We were on the field celebrating our season-ending victory. I turned around and was confronted by an outraged parent. The parent demanded to know why his son hadn’t played more during the course of the year.
I don’t remember the boy’s name. I remember he was a 7th grader that was happier picking flowers than playing football. He didn’t want to be on the field. He was happy just hanging out with his friends. He played in every game but usually just on special teams or late in games when we had a lead. He was happy. Daddy wasn’t.
My response to Dad was in the form of a question. I said, “Have you ever been to one of our practices? Because if you had, you wouldn’t be asking that question.” Dad had invested no effort in his son’s football experience. He had no idea that his son exerted no energy in practice. He simply wasn’t happy his son didn’t play more and it was obviously the coach’s fault.
As a society, we place a lot of pressure on our coaches. We expect them to win, form the leaders of tomorrow and, most importantly, play our star child more than anyone else.
We expect them to win games using our same children that are too lazy to take their clothes to the laundry room. We expect them to run summer programs when only two or three players will show up on any given day. We expect them to do this for pennies.
And if we are asked to help, most of us go running the opposite direction, making excuses all the way. Coaching can be a very rewarding experience, but it is no wonder that it is getting harder to find people willing to put up with the grief.
Interesting conclusion: The following year that same young man came out for football again and was an absolute monster. Amazing what a year of development and maturity can lead to! If only his Dad had that level of maturity and wisdom.