Come on, Mom
by Ryan Krzykowski
Moms are pretty much the best people on the planet, and I know better than to thoughtlessly criticize one of them in a post like this one. Therefore I will do my best to tread somewhat lightly, understanding there are a hundred different variables that provide context in this story that I know absolutely nothing about. OK, there was the disclaimer…now onto the story.
Last night I was talking with a friend who told me, “Hey, I’ve got a coaching horror story you might find interesting.” Because of my role with CFC, I hear some version of that somewhat often and I’m always interested to know what’s going on in our sports-crazed world.
In this particular story, my friend was sitting in a coffee shop around 6 PM and two women were sitting nearby. As the volume and intensity of their conversation escalated, he learned one of the women was a volleyball coach and the other, a player’s Mom. Mom was apparently getting quite agitated, questioning the coach about the position her daughter would play on the team. Why have this conversation at the coffee shop? I’m not sure, but whatever. Maybe they both really like coffee.
The issue wasn’t what I imagined it might be — the problem was the coach was having this girl play multiple positions on the team. She was practicing at both setter and hitter, and the coach explained that as one of the stronger players on the team, it would be good to gain experience in both roles, that it would contribute to her overall development in the sport. Mom wasn’t having it — she wanted her daughter to have an “identity”. Is she a setter or a hitter? Mom wanted coach to pick one and go from there. We know there is a whole lot of research telling us that having athletes specialize in a sport at a young age is detrimental in a variety of ways, but for this particular Mom, specializing in a sport isn’t enough, we need to pick a single position on the court.
As I listened to this story, I began wondering about the daughter’s age. Is she a high school junior thinking about final preparations before her college career? Actually no, turns out she is in the 6th grade. Yikes. And from their loud conversation, we also know this team is just three practices into their season. Double yikes. It just dawned on me why the coach wanted to have the meeting with Mom in a public place.
So yeah, this story reminds us of something we already know. (And again, there are so many things about the people involved in this story of which I have no idea). There are people out there who view sports and their child’s experience as an athlete in ways that would be widely viewed as unhelpful or unhealthy. As coaches, we don’t do it perfectly or have all the answers either. I share this because stories like this one provide me with fresh motivation to love kids, educate adults, and try and help us all move toward a more complete understanding of what youth sports ought to be about.
Let’s Coach With Purpose.