I coach to help young people develop a love for sports and for others. There’s a little bit more to my personal Coaching Purpose Statement, but that’s the most relevant part to this post. Teaching a love for sports and love for others is my goal. There’s nothing in there about being short tempered. Nothing about being impatient or crushing anyone’s spirit.
I still have a long way to go as a Coach, as a leader and as a man. There have been a few times in the past month that have provided poignant reminders that I an nowhere near a finished product. And yet, just last week I got one right. I share this story not to pat myself on the back, but rather to illustrate the power of purpose and intentionality.
As our middle school football team prepared to walk out toward the field for our first game, there were a few stragglers in the locker room. A couple of the kids were having trouble getting all their pads in place in order to get dressed. They had been told very clearly the day before at practice to take all their game stuff home and get it all ready so that we wouldn’t have any trouble being ready on time on game day. But apparently there were some who failed to heed that warning.
Finally all the 12 year old boys had emerged and we were ready to head out. 38 boys and their 3 coaches about to kick off the 2016 season. What a great feeling. But as I looked around, there was still one player missing. I couldn’t imagine anyone possibly taking so long to get dressed, so I sent 38 boys and two coaches to the field to begin warming up while I checked on #39.
It was quite a sight. The poor kid was sitting on the floor of the locker room. There were knee and thigh pads scattered about. Some shoes and pants, with a belt and some hip pads lying around. Fighting back tears, he looked at me and said, “I’m going to miss our first game. I don’t know where any of this stuff goes.”
Knowing that I was missing the beginning of warm ups, and realizing that ten years ago I would have drilled this kid with guilt as I helped him put his pads in (if I even helped him at all), I remembered why I coach. I decided to take a different approach than I probably would have in the past. I smiled at him, told him it was going to be OK, put in his knee and thigh pads, wove his belt through his pants and got him all ready to go. I told him I couldn’t wait to see him out on the field. I did mention that in future weeks he is going to have everything ready the night before, I couldn’t resist, but mostly I was patient, kind and encouraging.
As I mentioned earlier, my point in sharing this story is not to brag about myself. It’s just that I know what lives inside of me, and I know how apart from being purposeful in my interaction with kids, I would have handled that situation last week very differently. Left to my natural inclinations, I would have handled it in a way I regret. Coaching with purpose has enabled me to change the way I handle potentially frustrating situations, and has tremendously enhanced the sports experience for the young people I serve.