Being a coach is something that I have looked forward to since I was just a young lad. My sister's and I grew up being the children of a coach, so it was a lifestyle we quickly grew used to. Our father was a jack of all trades; coaching boys and girls basketball but specializing in baseball and football that saw a four decade career. As a child I remember all of the other football coaches coming to our house and gathering on our back deck discussing the upcoming game. I was a ballboy for the varsity football team from third grade through eighth grade. Coaching was a year round job for my father, a job that also included his position as physical education and athletic director of the Greater Amsterdam School District. What I am getting at is that essentially it was a matter of time before I picked up the whistle and became a coach for myself. It was how I saw my father and the fellow coaches conduct themselves that inspired me to become a coach when I grew up. It was how they coached that I remember the most; and it is something of a lost art that faces today's youth and interscholastic athletics.
Call it the "everyone gets a trophy" age but it certainly has become a problem in today's youth sports environment. Not every young athlete comes into the school sports level with the arrogant, spoiled and self-centered attitude that I mentioned just above, but there are increasingly more that do. Children are naturally self-centered beings, yes even I was at their age. It is just a part of growing up, immaturity and a shallow knowledge of how the world works still dictates who they are. Yet it was always through strong parenting that helped ease these children out of that phase as they entered middle school/junior high and began to play school sports. Immaturity and selfishness fell away to discipline and the newfound notion of teamwork. There was a pride that had never been felt to now being a part of something that is bigger than oneself. But now young athletes are being pumped up by their parents and youth league coaches while throwing the fundamentals of the game aside. Flashy plays and showboating take precedence over a gained respect for the game. it makes the job of a modified and eventually high school coach that much more difficult in preparing the newer athletes of today.
It may be the old fashioned teaching ways that I am used to from my experience with my father and his fellow coaches, but I have grown up knowing and believing that his way was the right way to coach. He was demanding of his athletes, he was tough on his athletes but he loved and respected his athletes. An athlete is a further extension of their coach and is only as good as how much their coach pushes and teaches them. We are hired by school districts to teach the youth that has decided to represent them in interscholastic competition. Coaches nurture and cultivate talent, while preparing their athletes for life beyond sports. It is astounding how many times former players still come up to my father, still calling him Coach Noto and thanking him for the time he spent teaching them. It is a love and respect that never diminishes and only grows stronger over time. The impact that coaches have on the lives of their athletes is quite impossible to fully grasp. We watch over your children for a few hours a day and quite possibly six out of the seven days in a week. We help your children reach their utmost potential and even provide a caring ear when life seems too much.
Which is all the more reasons for parents of youth athletes today to read this upcoming portion. Please support your child's coaches 100% and trust that they know what they are talking about. We do not become coaches for the whim of it or for the accolades (maybe that is true for some, but that is a very small proportion). We become coaches because we had such an amazing experience as athletes ourselves and want to pass on that love for the game to a future generation. We go through classes on coaching, get our certificates and requirements played out by the school districts. We have played the sport ourselves and have either played it in college or even at the professional level. If your child does not get in right away, it does not immediately mean we have it out for them. Scholastic sports are not youth leagues, coaches do not have to play everyone equally every single game. We play the athletes who work the hardest, listen to instruction well and have a deep love for their sport. Your child may be physically gifted but that means nothing when put into a competitive team atmosphere. Coaches play kids who do the right thing and sacrifice for their team, not just the kids who have unbelievable talent.
Telling your child constantly how great they are only worsens their ability for the future. Yes it is a good thing to congratulate your child and tell them how proud you are of them, but keep them grounded. Young athletes who go through their youth athletic careers being told how great they are all the time will negatively effect them when they reach school sports. They are selfish, unwilling to listen to instruction and disregard the team concept. They are tough to play with and more often than not will ruffle the feathers of their teammates. I have seen it quite a few times even in my short time as a coach; I have had players who refuse to listen to my coaching and it has led to a very uncomfortable situation for the rest of their teammates. I have dealt with parents who believe that their child does no wrong and are very critical of the job that I do. For parents who do have a tough time letting their children's coach(es) do their job all I have to say is this; take a deep breath and relax. We do not have to coach your child number one and number two just trust in our desire to coach your child and the end will justify the means. We love coaching but above that we love teaching. There are very few things on this Earth that make as happy as when my athletes succeed on and off the field. I love giving a younger athlete the chance to grow to love the game as much as I did when I was their age. Seeing a young athlete rise from an awkward modified player to a starter on a varsity program is one of the most gratifying feelings in the world. It means as a coach you succeeded in teaching that athlete to play and respect the game the right way. So today's young athletes and parents of athletes I say this to you; believe and let your coaches coach. Support your child's coach through and through, join the program's booster club. Be an active part of their athletic careers but ease of the brakes. Let them work, learn and sacrifice on their own. I will you all with a quote from legendary men's college basketball coach Bobby Knight, "To be as good as it can be, a team has to buy into what you as the coach are doing. They have to feel that you're a part of them and they're a part of you."