The 6th grade football season ended a couple weekends ago, and it was incredibly rewarding.  I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a season that required more of me personally, and I couldn’t be much more proud of the effort that the players and coaches put forth over the course of our 14 weeks together.

Things didn’t always go perfectly — not by a long shot, and it wasn’t always pretty, but all in all we had a very positive experience.  My purpose statement, focused on helping the kids grow in their love for the sport and each other, guided every decision I made over the course of the season.  When I messed up in one way or another, I did my best to own it and make it right.  When we finished practices, we reminded the players that our mission was to help them grow in their love for the game and each other.  We had them call out their teammates who did positive things.  Prior to the final practice, I asked the players to talk about the qualities that define a great teammate, and they shot back with a lot of great answers.  They talked about a great teammate being someone who gives his best effort all the time, who encourages others, especially when they make a mistake, who both leads and follows well, and more.  I was impressed and proud of our kids and told them so, and then we went out for our final practice.

At the end of that last practice, we tried something I’ve never done before.  We had the players form a line on one sideline and each coach spread out across the goal line.  One by one, players came through and shook my head and I thanked them for being part of the team.  Then they went through and spent 30-45 seconds with each of the assistant coaches, who did an absolutely fantastic job of building those kids up in that moment, just as they had all season.  The smiles could be seen and the enthusiasm felt throughout the entire field.

That process took about 20 minutes, and it was a great way to put a bow on all those weeks of practice together.  The very next morning the boys played their final game, and they did a fantastic job.  Twenty-six young men, the vast majority of whom had never played in pads before, had come together as a quality football team and will hopefully go on and continue to play the sport in future years.  I look forward to the opportunity to continue coaching many of them on their middle school team in 7th and 8th grade, but this year’s 6th grade group will always have a special place in my heart.  Hopefully it will in theirs as well.  Those kids probably don’t realize it, but they accomplished something significant over the past few months, and as I wrote a few paragraphs earlier, I couldn’t be much more proud of them and proud to have been their coach.

Let’s Coach With Purpose.