Whether you played them as a little kid or you’re playing them professionally we’ve all been connected to sports in one way or another. Sports keep us sane, sports keep us hopeful, and sports are where we form some of the most important relationships of our entire lives. Guys love hanging out with the guys at practice, and girls love hanging out with the girls. But, the most important relationship that we form, whether we know it or not, is with our coach.
During football season, I spent more time with Coach Potter than I did my own parents and I lived with them. In a sense, Coach Potter, along with all the other football coaches, were an extension of my parents. I saw them during school, in the weight room, and on the field for practice. In total I saw them 10 hours a day. That’s almost half a day.
Coaches are so much more than a coach. They’re a sounding board, a mentor, and a friend. As I sat here and thought about “Why do people coach?” I came up with this: Coaches coach because they were once the athlete that they are now coaching, and they want to have an impact in somebody’s life and influence them for the better just like somebody once did for them. It’s not about winning games, it’s not about state/national titles, it’s not about accumulating a huge amount of wealth. It’s about the players. The coaches see a little bit of them in every player. It’s an opportunity for them to give back to the game and the world what it has given to them. Ask any coach why they coach and most of them will respond with “because of the players”.
Serving is what God has called every single one of us to do, right? Coaching, in a sense, is serving. They’re giving their time, their sweat, and their life today to the kids that will make up our world tomorrow. They pour their heart and their soul into it. Instead of spending time at home with their wife and kids, they’re on a field/court somewhere pouring into somebody who isn’t their own. They choose to do this is what’s so amazing. Out of love and compassion they choose to dedicate their life to a game and the players of that game. The love of the game is what attracts people to coaching, but the love for the players is what keeps them in it for so long.
Bobby Bowden was at practice back in the day and it was pouring down rain. One of the student assistants proceeded to get Coach Bowden an umbrella and stand next to him with it so he wouldn’t get wet. I mean, it’s freaking Bobby Bowden. Who wouldn’t have thought to do that? Dude is a legend. Upon arriving with the umbrella, Coach Bowden looked at the assistant and said “I don’t need that. If my boys are gonna practice in the rain, I’m gonna coach in the rain with them.”
Humility and servant leadership are some of the characteristics that come to my mind when I think about the coaches that I’ve had in the past. They helped mold me into the man that I am today. They’ve pushed me, they’ve challenged me, and they’ve really pissed me off a couple of times. I think that’s a good thing. It’s their job to do that.
Having my dad as a coach was really interesting. There’s a good thing about this and it was that I got to spend more time with my dad. The bad thing about it was that I was inclined to talk back, run my mouth, and say stuff I would never say to a coach. If you know me at all, you know that I respect higher authority. If Coach Potter had told me to run through a brick wall and catch the football with my feet in the endzone, I would have done it without asking any questions. But, had my dad told me to do the same thing, except to field a ground ball with my feet, I would have seriously questioned his logic behind it and probably asked why he wanted me to do it before doing it.
You see, it’s not that I didn’t respect my dad, because I respect him very much. However, the fact that we are so close and we’re family, there’s a sense of comfortability between us two. There was so much comfort that I actually considered mouthing back at him when I would never do that to a normal coach. Just so you know, I never mouthed back at him in the 3 years that I played for him. I was always able to maintain self-control and think first before I spoke. I had to look at him as a coach and not my dad. I’ll say this about playing for my dad. Man, it was awesome. We won State together, we lost heart-breaking games together, and we loved every minute of it. I wouldn’t trade what happened in those three years for anything in this world.
The relationship a coach has with his/her players, and the impact that he/she has on them will change the entire course of their lives. Think about college football. Some kids come from fatherless homes and poverty, but there’s a hope that some coach will see them, recognize their talent, and vastly change the course of their lives. Understand something people, when you chose a college you’re making a 40 year decision. Not a 4 year decision. Where you choose to go to college will impact the next 40 years of your life.
Coaches and their service are what make sports even more incredible than they already are. I’ll bet that every athlete that is reading this has already thought of a coach that vastly impacted their life for the better.
I want to thank every coach that I have ever had because without you guys, I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today without you all. Your service, your passion, and your love for me has changed me and molded me. There’s a little piece of all of you inside of me. I’m the accumulation of what you poured into me and for that, I am forever grateful. You gave everything you had and expected nothing in return. I will never be able to thank you all enough. Not because of what you did for me as a player, but as a human being.
Send an email, call, or set up a lunch with a coach from your past and thank them. They gave all and wanted nothing more than to see you prosper as a person. They deserve your gratitude.