What a difference a coach makes!
From a Mother’s perspective, there are many reasons to hate football. Practices three nights a week plus games on Saturday. All that equipment to keep track of. The laundry! The bumps and bruises. The cost. Hearing the coach say to your 8 year old son, “Hit hard! Stop worrying about hurting someone!” and “Shake it off, no babies!” But after a full season of being a taxi driver, a spectator and a team Mom, I am fully converted. I am officially a Football Mom. I love the sport and love that my boys play it. And I owe it largely to one great coach.
My 8 year old was counting the days until he could play football like his big brother. When the day finally came and we sent in the registration form, he was ecstatic. Going with his big brother to rent his equipment was no less than Christmas in his eyes. And he wore his pads around the house for the first two weeks. He did great at tryouts, and was selected to play on the Olympus Gremlin Grey team. He ended up playing center, because he had a gift of being able to snap the ball with good accuracy. I came to learn what an important position that is, as I watched his team score touchdown after touchdown. The other teams had to hand off their ball to the quarterback, but our team had an advantage. Our center, my son, could get the ball to our quarterback several yards back, giving us many more opportunities to score.
In one particularly heated game, a ball was fumbled right next to my son, and he just watched it roll by. Our coach came unglued. He couldn’t believe a kid could just watch a ball go by and do nothing. My son got a good dose of coaches anger that day, and he was both embarrassed and resigned to never make that mistake again. The coolest thing though, was when the phone rang on Sunday night. It was the coach, wanting to speak with Bode. He apologized for his outburst, then explained why he was upset. He told my son what he would like to see in the future, and then made sure he knew that he was a valuable player to the team. My little dude hung up the phone a notch taller.
As the season progressed, the kids got better. And our opponents got tougher. In our last regular season game, my son lined up against a huge left back who was good at the trash talk. He snarled at Bode, “You’re goin’ down”, and my son believed him. For the rest of the game, his snap was off. The coaches let it go for awhile, and then they were forced to pull him from the game. He again was embarrassed, and this time, scared. He didn’t want to play center any more.
During the next two weeks, as the team prepared for playoffs, he asked to play another position. At this point in the season there wasn’t enough time for him to learn something new, and so in the championship game, he found himself on the sidelines. The coach tried to put him in a couple of times on defense, and he declined. I pulled him aside before the fourth quarter and begged him to go in. My words, “Honey, you’ve had such an awesome season. You don’t want to end like this. You want to be on the field when your team wins this game. Please go in.” And so he did. Nothing momentous, but he got to be on the field when the whistle blew and his team came off the field as champions!
Here’s where the great coach part comes in. At the team banquet, the coaches talked about each boy. The head coach asked to talk about Bode. He acknowledged that the big opponent had gotten the best of him, but he also thanked my son for getting the team to the championships. He told him that his talent at center helped them make it to the playoffs. My sweet little guy walked back to his seat with his head held high. And all the way home, he talked about next year.
I am so grateful to that coach, and to all the coaches who look into the eyes behind the helmet. Who see the potential, and the heart in those little uniforms. And who know that those little boys are being shaped by every word that comes from their coaches mouth.
Here’s a thought, maybe we should all look into “the eyes behind the helmet”. Maybe we all have an opportunity to see the potential and the heart in one another. Maybe our words have the potential to build another human being up. Maybe in a sense, we’re all coaches.
Thank you Coach Christensen, you’re making a difference!