An Eye Opener

by Ryan Krzykowski
Last week we began practice for the 2019 football season.  I have the privilege of coaching my youngest son as part of a group of 5th and 6th grade boys.  There’s a whole lot that goes into starting up a season — scheduling, contact lists, equipment, physical forms, practice plans, coordinating a coaching staff and more, but when the group finally gets to hit the field all the effort needed on those tedious logistics becomes worth it.

But what really opened my eyes as we get this season going was a conversation with my 11-year old son…

He and I were talking about why he enjoys playing football and we got to talking about a 1st/2nd grade flag team that he played on when he was actually in Kindergarten.  I coached that team as well, and as early elementary flag football teams go, this one was not very good.  At least not on the field as compared with other teams in the league.  If I remember correctly that league didn’t officially keep score, but our group was quite overmatched in nearly every game.  We gave up a whole lot more points than we scored.  I wasn’t too worried about it at the time, but if my coaching job had depended on having a winning season with that group I would have been fired.

So when I pressed into my son’s feelings about that team, asking him about what he remembered from the season, he was quite surprised to learn that they had struggled on the field.  He told me that he had a lot of fun that season, and that remembered the team as being pretty good.

My point in telling this story isn’t that my son has a bad memory or is delusional about how good his team was, but rather to remind us all that the kids we coach, especially those of elementary age, carry memories from those teams and seasons that have little to do with the scores of games.  Their memories will have far more to do with the way being on the team made them feel about the sport, their teammates and themselves.  As coaches, we have tremendous influence over the creation of those memories.  Naturally we are going to work to help the team play well and improve over the course of the season, but we do well to keep in mind the kind of things that stick in players’ minds in the long term.

Let’s Coach With Purpose.