So, this past weekend, the club volleyball team I coach participated in the Asics President's Day Classic in Omaha. I couldn't have asked for a better weekend from the team. Every single player got better, and I literally saw seismic changes in the course of just a couple of points.
It brings me, however, to the title of this entry. On two different times Sunday, an official or a coach who had been on the other side of the net told me that they were impressed that I coached my team all the way till the end. Huh?
My first thought was, that's literally my job. My job is to help these young athletes get better, learn from every mistake, and grow their competence and confidence in volleyball.
Then it hit me, and I've watched and commented on this a lot, but my humility (yes, I swear I have some), gets in the way sometimes. I felt like I was doing the bare minimum, but there are coaches I see ALL THE TIME who are doing so much less.
My style of coaching has always been super-engaged. It's the only way I think about it. I'm not trying to make a spectacle, though I know I sometimes do. I get caught up in the emotion of the match in much the same way my players do. Although I like to think that most of the time I can be calm and reasoned when need be, and I try not to get too hot-headed.
Though I've definitely not always been perfect, I try to take the lessons that I imperfectly use in teaching, specifically praise in public, criticize in private. The times I haven't stuck to this, I've tried to make sure I apologize to the athlete in question.
I certainly have tried not to scream at my players in front of a whole gym. I don't think that gets you any place as a coach and it sure doesn't fit my style. Again, the times when I have, I've tried to make it right with the athletes.
One has to acknowledge that all players respond to different coaching. There are absolutely athletes who thrive when getting called out in front of large groups. However, that's not my personality, and I know it comes off as artificial and contrived.
Rarely have I been without something to say to the players on the court. That's why it's so easy for me to coach all the way to the very last point. I've also seen some spectacular comebacks in my day, and don't ever want to deny the players that opportunity because it feels as though I've given up on them. It's not who I am.
Prior to now, did I think of my technique as teaching great lessons to my players? No. I really didn't. However, being engaged with your team every point conveys the message that they're still important, valuable, and can be successful, even if things aren't going perfectly.
One of the things I love about the club that I have the privilege to coach for is that's exactly what our club director expects. The expectation is that we coach the kids to improve every point and play the right way, and then winning will come. We know if we train the girls correctly in practice, and enforce that "We will get better every point" mindset, the wins will come in spades. The club season is a marathon, not a sprint. So far, every year I've coached with this club, it's been the case that the teams have been much better at the end of the season. I'm so grateful to still be part of the organization.
This whole, "Why Would You Say That?" thing got me thinking about something down the same lines that's always bothered me. The idea that dads "babysit" their own kids. I'm sorry, but that's unfathomably stupid to me, and kind of offensive.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized we say it for the EXACT SAME REASON as the coaching comments from the officials and other coaches I mentioned earlier. Other dads set the bar so low. The idea that dads only parent part time, or from time to time is sort of like babysitting.
If you read this and take issue with this last bit, that's fine. So far, in my marriage, the division of responsibility has been pretty good, I think (signs that I'm probably wrong....). I SO look forward to coming home every day and playing with Everett. In fact, I look forward to it more each day because I swear to God he learns how to do something new and fun daily.
I don't babysit Everett. I never have. I never will. He's my son. I parent him. Sometimes well, sometimes not as well, but I signed up to be his parent, not his babysitter.
Ideally, the type of coaching for which I received the compliments I did over the weekend would become so commonplace, no one would even notice me. Heck, I wish people didn't notice me coaching, because it takes the focus off the players who are putting their all on the line. I know, I know, I do stupid things on the sideline that naturally draw attention, but it's not to put the attention on me, it's to celebrate with my players; to show them that I'm with them.