Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Coach's Tale

(To Mom, the strongest woman in the world.)

After the somber events that have occurred in my life over the span of three months, I have taken a lot of time to think about a lot of memories. A lot of them had to do with my parents, of course. One of the prouder moments they had together was when they helped coach many of the sports teams that me and my younger brother were a part of. They didn't have to go to school for it; they just took what they knew from experience and taught those skills to young girls and boys.

Today, my mother and I saw the film The Mighty Macs in which basketball coach Cathy Rush started from square one and made young women from a small college into champions. After watching that movie, my mother and I reminisced about how she used to coach my softball teams in grade school and how wound up we would all get in it--no lie, I would too...I'd make phone calls if the parents were busy with things and I was a teammate telling the parents what was going on. It was awkward, I'll tell you. We later talked about how we'd want to do it again. It wouldn't be because we loved the stress and the competition (well, for me it wouldn't), it would be because coaching is almost like a sport of our own. We got our own fun and joy out of it, even though I wasn't a legitimate coach at all.

I don't necessarily think this is the same case for all forms of coaching, whether it would be on the professional level or on the recreational level, but to me, coaching requires a lot of "street smarts," if you get where I'm heading to with this one. Don't understand? I'll explain as best as I can.

For example, a couple of days ago Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington compared his matchup to Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa to a chess match. To me, it's more like Battleship because I hardly understand chess, but that's besides the point. Before you do the major planning, you need to know your men (or women in other cases) and make sure that they are conditioned and ready to do their job and make the most of their ability. Sure, it would really help if you played the sport before, so you know what kind of conditioning you would need and what kind of emotions are placed into certain fields of the sport. In other words, you need to know the basic mechanics and how to build up someone who is just learning how to play. When I first started out in CYO softball, there were a few girls who did not know how to hit a ball or even catch one correctly. Regardless of who knew and who didn't, my parents took everyone back to the beginning and taught the basics of how to catch and how to hit. Because they knew how to build those mechanics, some of these girls became so well-nourished in the craft that they even went on to play in high school. To see that happen, you can believe that the coaches get a great amount of satisfaction when there is a success story like that. When you can teach like that, you can get a better feel on placement and how to approach difficulties in cases of games and drills.

I guess you can see why my parents were so wound up in it; once they got a gist of their players, the planning process of placement and strategies provided for each athlete took more time than they would ever care to share with me. The way I see it, the easy part for them was the encouragement and the teaching of particular values that just about any parent would teach to their own children. The teachings of belief, heart, and teamwork would need to be heard at times by players because of the [often] lack of being on the same page or the fog of mental imagery of their own self-strategy. The way a coach acts like a mother duck to keep the team together gives the players another "parent" to look up to. This person taught them specific values on life and love in sports.

Don't lie...doesn't he look like a huggable grandpa to you?

Although it may be true that you may need to have a knack to do stuff like this, you can understand why it's so easy to get wound up in coaching. Most of all, it's pretty awesome to see your master plan all unfold and just watch your team propel to greatness (whatever that may be, since not everyone can go undefeated).

The one thing that my mother and father always wanted before anything else--as much as my mother was competitive and loved to win--they wanted us to have fun. Even professional managers will want their athletes to enjoy themselves in order to remain intrinsically motivated to be at their best and succeed. Isn't that what it's all about after all? Coaches have fun seeing you have fun. How about that? There's so much inner psychology from it that in reality, it all boils down to enjoyment of some sort. Sure, there have probably been some real evil coaches that people may have had in the past...they probably just had a stick up their you-know-where...but even when they were in a good mood, they wanted to see you succeed while carrying out the "master plan."

I won't lie, I'd love to coach some sort of team at some point in life. Teaching comes as a second nature, so how bad could it be to tell a coach's tale to my children someday?


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