Last week our middle school football season came to an end. Working with 7th grade students and knowing that I would be coaching the same group next year as 8th graders, I set as my primary goal for the season that each player would want to come back and play again next year. Obviously, I won’t know until August whether or not that goal is achieved, but I kept that idea in mind throughout the year. I certainly didn’t coach the team perfectly, and probably made at least 4-5 of the coaching mistakes that our friend John O’Sullivan mentions in his tremendous post, “8 Coaching Mistakes I Wish I Never Made” at one time or another. But as we finished our final game of the season, I had an idea that seemed to be an absolute winner.
Knowing that our locker room is adjacent to the pool, I decided that it would be pretty cool to stage a brief, impromptu swimming party. I changed into a pair of shorts, walked into the locker room and announced the pool was open. I kept our time to 10 minutes because I knew parents were waiting. A few of those parents may have gotten a little impatient, but if they could have seen what I saw, they would’ve immediately understood it was worth the wait. I’m not sure I’ve ever been around a happier group of kids. It was joy — just pure joy on every face as they jumped in, flipped off the diving board, and swam around in their PE shorts or game pants. I’ve already forgotten some of the things that happened this season, but am confident I will never forget the feeling of watching those kids enjoy their last 10 minutes of football season. I’m pretty sure all those boys will remember that feeling as well.