As summer gets in full swing, local children and teens are spending more time out of doors. For many of them, that means time at local parks and athletic fields. For some, it means the start of summer practice for school athletic teams or weekends spent traveling around the state to participate in athletic tournaments.
For parents, that means hectic schedules, carpools, evenings spent sweating on the sidelines and cheering their favorite teams. It also means money, a lot of money for registration fees and countless bottles of Gatorade and water and the ubiquitous sunflower seeds.
I am one of those parents whose child is busy on multiple fields throughout the week. Currently, in the mornings he is hitting the high school weight room as part of the summer conditioning for fall football. He is also hitting the batting center to work on his hitting to improve his baseball game and our weekends are spent driving to baseball fields around the state for him to play in tournaments designed to bring players to the attention of college scouts. Throw in Wednesday night and Sundays spent at church and you can see that our summer is pretty well spent.
That’s our choice. A choice we make to keep our child engaged. To keep him focused on improving himself not only physically, but emotionally and mentally. All of these games are both mental and physical. They are also emotional — and that goes for parents as well.
At a certain age, you have to sit back and watch your kids learn some hard lessons. Unlike T-ball, not everybody plays and not everybody wins. Sometimes, a lot of the times, kids can’t see the reason behind a coach’s decision (heck, sometimes I can’t), but they have to listen and hopefully, learn from the experience. Parents, too. Coaches, too.
Coaches, of all flavors, are unsung heroes who are changing lives for good or ill. It’s a big responsibility and it is so important that they realize the impact they have on the lives of the young men and women they are coaching. They can create a champion or they can turn a kid off sports completely. It all has to do with why they are coaching.
For some, coaching is a way to relive their own glory days on the field. They are the coaches who are playing for titles, who are focused not on infusing a love of the game and teaching the fundamentals, but rather the “win at all cost” coaches. These are perhaps the most dangerous people to allow into your child’s life. These coaches don’t look at the potential a child has, rather where he or she is right at that moment, not who they could be if they developed, if they were coached.
These are the coaches who yell, assign blame and give up on their team when they are not performing. They are the ones the other coaches shun. You should shun them, too. Winning isn’t the only thing.
For others, coaching is about sharing a passion. It’s about teaching skills and watching with pride when a kids “gets it.” These are the coaches you want. These are the ones who your child is going to love long after he or she stops competing. These are the coaches who are going to change your child because they not only believe in them, they enjoy them and they love them.
I count my child lucky to have had several coaches who are of this caliber. They want the best for the player, even when they don’t win - Especially when they don’t win.
Two such coaches are at Gray’s Creek High School. One is the football coach, David Lovette and the other is the baseball/assistant football coach, Jeff Nance.
Lovette is a no-nonsense kind of coach. When you are practicing, you are practicing. When he asks you to do something, it’s because he wants you to learn something. He sees the potential in his boys and he pushes them to reach it. He doesn’t break them. He has a dry sense of humor, and quick smile. He is quick to praise his players and also to correct them. He is about building men of honor; however, a winning season is okay, too.
Nance is always smiling. He knows his players. He enjoys them. He is quick to crack a joke, but quicker to teach. We have been spending time with Nance lately working on my son’s hitting. For months, people have been telling and yelling at my son about his swing. He heard them. But he didn’t understand what they were saying. Within five minutes of being in the cage with Nance, he not only got a lesson in physics, but also learned how to correct his mechanics. Not because Nance yelled, but because he taught by example. That “aha!” moment was a joy to see.
I also saw Nance in action during the last baseball season. In a parent meeting, he explained that if he saw one of his players messing up, he would call home. He straightforwardly told the parents assembled that evil was walking the halls of area high schools and it wanted their kids. He was going to do his part to keep that from happening. And he did, much to the dismay of some players.
But here’s the thing with Nance, he will work his players hard, and at the end of practice, he will give them a hug and he usually says, “I love you, buddy.”
And, he means it. Every time. His players get that, and they are changed.