Let me be clear: Not all of the coaches I had throughout my childhood were insane. Some were soft-spoken, calm and loving (shoutout to TB). Some, on the other hand, would scream with such vein-popping irritation that spectators were often unsure as to whether there'd just been a turnover or whether my coach had just been stabbed.
But as I get older, I become increasingly thankful for the coaches who liked to push the limit. Because beneath all the clipboard snapping, foot-stomping and chair drop-kicking, I learned a lot from them.
They tripled my (what I thought was already elaborate) vocabulary of swear words. But even more than that, they gave me tools to succeed far beyond any court or field.
First and foremost ...
... they make you accountable.
In sports there's nothing worse than seeing a clipboard fly across the gym, knowing it was your fault. Whether you ran the play badly or turned your head the wrong way on defense, the coach’s ball being beamed at your head was always there as a quick reminder to not let it happen again. Being called out on your mistakes in front of people and owning up to it is such a real-world scenario that a lot of people lack the ability to handle. Even though some of my coaches went to really extreme measures in pointing out our mistakes, one thing is for sure: it worked. We owned them, we tried to fix them, and moved on.
Also, let's be real, you don’t want to be the one to finally put coach over the edge and cause him to have an aneurysm, so everyone did their best to minimize mistakes.
In life, being able to admit to your mistake and adapt accordingly is a quality that our culture is deviating from because of the “everyone’s a winner” mentality. My coaches taught me that people make mistakes, lots of them. Instead of being so quick to accept credit and recognition for a success and shove failure onto someone else, they made us accountable for everything. We were just as responsible for our failures as we were for our successes.
They give you thick skin.
Have you ever had a day where it just feels like you can't do anything right? Anyone who's ever played a sport can relate to that feeling: a practice or game where you just feel so off. It seems like you can't even breathe without being criticized in front of everyone.
As frustrating as these days are, they're when you grow the most.
You learn to accept criticism, which is huge. You don't roll your eyes, you don't talk back and you definitely do not cry, because you know as soon as the coach senses the slightest bit of disrespect, your entire team is running for the rest of practice.
These are days where you've tried everything to fix your play. Working harder, running faster, telling God that you'll give your life savings to the poor the next time you're at church ... nothing seemed to work! As much as you might want to scream, kick the ball at the wall, and go running home to your comfy bed and dog, you stay and you grow.
Sports make you deal with your hardest days head on. You suck it up, stand up again, and with enough hard work it gets better. Perseverance is one of the most valuable qualities a child can develop to be able to succeed.
If there’s one reason to sign kids up for sports, it’s that they gave you the ability to handle criticism, something many people lack in contemporary society. We live in a world where everybody’s a winner and where naming someone MVP is offensive to everyone else.
With the expansion of this ideology, kids aren’t learning how to handle life when things don’t go their way, when they’re not getting a trophy or when they give something their best shot — and maybe it’s not good enough.
Getting through the hardest days of childhood sports taught me how to be resilient through failures and how to accept criticism the right way.
They’re the first ones to teach you that tomorrow’s a new day.
Referencing the last section, some days you leave practice feeling like garbage. You don't want to think about anything related to the sport, but can't stop replaying your mistakes in your head and trying to figure out what went wrong.The next time you walk into the gym, you pray you'll do better and occasionally try to bargain with a higher power (e.g., “I’ll work my absolute hardest, and if I do well today I swear I'll never make fun of my brothers ever again.”). While your coach will be the absolute first to point out errors, they'll often also be the first to recognize improvement, to dig you out of your hole. Believe it or not, I think they've got your best interest in mind.
Being able to bounce back from a failure, no matter how severe, is key to being a reliable, strong person. No matter how badly you feel about something, these coaches taught me that tomorrow’s a new day. You get a chance to hit the “reset” button and do a good job tomorrow. There’s no point in harping on something that's in the past. The only thing you can do is learn from your mistakes and move on to the next day.
They make you push yourself harder than you think you can.
I know the difference between going through the motions and truly giving something your best effort. Often times, even when you think you're trying as hard as you can, these seemingly insane coaches will push you to try 10 times harder.
One of my coaches used to say, “The only reason to not go faster is being dead or throwing up. If you throw up, there's the garbage can. You have a minute to use it, then hop back in.” Thankfully, I wasn't one of the lucky few that got to know the garbage.
Trying your hardest often involves taking risks, going farther than you think you're capable of going. So whether I’m working on a project, doing homework, working at my job or an internship, one thing’s for sure: I can always work harder.
They give you an incredible bond with your team and you learn how to treat others.
Sports teach you (like nothing else) to pick people up. Whether it’s literally picking a teammate up from the ground or picking them up emotionally after getting reamed out for a mistake, you’re there for them. Between practices and games almost every day, you probably spend more time with them than you do with your family.
While some of my coaches were the first to make sure they broke us down, they made certain that as teammates, we were there to put the pieces of each other back together. But that’s the kind of stuff that sets teams apart from the others, you learn to make it through anything, even if it means dragging someone through to the end. You learn to pick people up, dust them off and get them back in the direction they’re supposed to be headed.
Helping people get back up when they’re “down” is one of the most valuable traits someone can have as a family member, friend or even as a significant other. You learn that sometimes even the smallest gestures can go a long way in showing someone you care. My favorite coach used to tell us that sports (and life) are all about “peaks and valleys,” and how you’ve got to get through the really low valleys to get to the really high peaks. But you, as teammates, have to be the ones that help each other get to the top of those peaks.
If you’re a parent and want your kid to learn the importance of being supportive, hard-working, compassionate and to always be striving to achieve higher goals, then I highly suggest signing them up for sports with a coach that pushes the limits. They teach you more life lessons than anything else in the world can and truly give you an unmatched set of skills and strength. In a society that’s becoming infinitely softer, sports are a perfect microcosm of the real world.