Ok, so I’m going to put a disclaimer in here before I get going on this blog. I am not a parent, and my knowledge of parenting extends to scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed, which contains a majority of articles, status updates and photos describing children. This happens when you are 34 and still friends with most of your peeps from high school and college.
Oh and in case you think I am a total rookie with understanding this whole parenting thing, and not buying my expertise via Facebook, I’ve held my friend’s babies a few times and played outside with the older ones that can walk.
That being said, right now I am coaching primarily a U10 group and a U15 team, and with this discrepancy in age, I feel like I am also getting a sense of parenting both youngsters and teenagers over the time I have spent with both over the last few months.
So without further ado, here are my 8 Reasons Why Coaching is Like Parenting, in my most humblest of opinions…
1) Before Children Are the Age of 11 You Are Quite Simply a Rockstar
I say this, as after I leave my U10 group on a Wednesday/Friday and Sunday, I am convinced, that I, Ciara McCormack, am quite simply, the coolest person in the whole world.
My little people can’t tell me enough stories about their day, laugh at all my not funny jokes, and I have a herd of them following me around as I try and lay out the cones and get set up for the session.
Yes my friends, when children are under the age of 11, you know everything, you are hilarious, and really there’s no one better in the world than you.
And yes it’s true. You want to keep them that age forever.
2) Treat The Little People Like They Are Capable of Everything
This is an experiment that I’ve been running since I started coaching, but I believe that the little people are able to reach the standards we set for them. I believe that eight year olds are able to get complicated moves that I was still trying to work out when I was 22 and so I coach them accordingly. And they usually prove me right.
I’ll make sure I write a blog and let you know how things go when the time comes for me to raise baby Mozart.
3) You Have More Success If You Make the Mundane Fun and Competitive
Going back to my babysitting roots, and being one of those people that turned meal time into party time (yes broccoli at times turned into an airplane flying into my little charge’s mouth), I’ve found the more enthusiasm and gamesmanship that I bring, the more both the teenagers and little people alike respond.
My favourite example of coaching with this, is a few years ago when I helped out at my friend’s camp, and there was a group of 5 year old boys that were circulating through.
I’ll never forget the terror deep down when I saw this out of control group racing to my agility station. Dear God, I thought, I will be lucky if I keep this gang of crazies from beating each other up, let alone standing in a straight line waiting their turn to go through the agility ladder.
It was then in the throes of panic that suddenly the words came tumbling out of my mouth, “ok guys, we’re going to play a really fun game, do you want to know what it is?” all of a sudden my group of wild 5 year olds settled down.
“We’re going to see who can stand the straightest in line, and not say a word for the whole time we are at this station. This is a very serious competition that starts now.”
And with those words, I felt like a lion tamer as I ran an orderly agility station for 5 year old boys, a feat that I don’t think has been accomplished since.
So parental friends, am I right? You have more success when you make the mundane fun.
4. Sometimes the best kind of Love is the Tough kind
This weekend I had my U15’s at a tournament in Boston. They are an absolute pleasure to coach, a dream actually, in terms of their work ethic, and how they perform as a team.
But for some reason this weekend a couple of them seemed a little tired and off and Coach Ciara was getting a little exasperated after the second game when the group was clearly underperforming due to effort.
So this is when captain Tough Love came to town.
My halftime speech at our second game was this:
Guys, there is a lot of things I could say right now that could help us technically, and tactically do better, but if half of you guys are playing like you don’t want to be here, then really nothing I can say is going to fix the fact that we aren’t playing to our potential.
So what I’m going to do is walk over to the bench and let you guys figure out what you need to do to motivate each other because obviously whatever I’m saying isn’t getting the job done. *
And I marched off with my assistant coach behind me
(*the girls played like the rockstars that they are, in the second half)
5. Parents Second Guess Themselves All the Time
To the girls I probably looked like the picture of confidence in my decision to exercise some tough love, but as I walked away, I was mumbling to my assistant coach, “Am I a bad coach? Should I have done that? Do you think I’ve just made it worse?” Just like the day that you realize your parents are human beings and actually don’t know everything, so too did I feel that way when I was walking away, worried that I had scarred my wonderful 15 year old friends.
Shh don’t tell the kids, we actually don’t know everything.
6. The Difference Between A Positive and Negative Encounter is Communication
I took one of my players out of a game suddenly this year, as she wasn’t performing. The game was important and flowing quickly and I didn’t have a chance to explain to her besides just a brief sentence or two, what I thought she could have done better. After the game and I had spoken to the team, I knew that she would still have been upset, as no one likes getting taken out.
So instead of shying away from a difficult conversation, I pulled her aside to talk.
I let her know about what I thought she could have done better, and asked her what she thought about it, to which she impressed me with a very enlightened response. We chatted for a few moments, and spoke about some things to do better next time, and she walked away after her tears dried with a big smile on her face. It was a good lesson to talk to those kids to get to the bottom of what is going on with them and let them know you care. And how that little bit of effort can make the difference between a positive and negative encounter.
7. You Expect Kids To Be The Way You Are/Were
I remember my Dad used to get frustrated doing math with me when I was younger. He was a brilliant engineer, and I perhaps deep down to spite him, decided I hated math and didn’t want to understand it. We clashed often doing my math homework because of this.
As a player, I have always been borderline reckless from the standpoint of tackling and winning 50/50 balls. Therefore as a coach I demand these same qualities in my players.
I have found myself not accepting anything less than players getting stuck in every chance that they get, and at times have flashbacks to my Dad forcing me to be a math nerd when all I wanted to do was learn another language.
And like my Dad let go and let me be me, I have to remind myself to give my players the freedom to play the game that best expresses who they are without putting them in a box of what worked for me.
8. You Can Lead a Horse to Water But You…
…can’t make them drink.
This cliche to me makes it so obvious the struggle that parents face every day in dealing with their kids. You have the experience, you have the knowledge, yet you have to let the kids make their own decisions and just trust that you’ve given them enough information to make the right ones. And you have to sit back and watch even when they don’t.
Trying to convince a 16 year old that missing prom or after prom may be necessary to be fresh for an important game or tournament to get that college scholarship that they say they want so badly, sometimes feels like trying to convince a sumo wrestler that food isn’t important to eat.
You try and convince them that
a) that a huge part of accomplishment is actually sacrifice and not some distant idea on a Nike commercial and
b) that the parties that they will have in 4 years of college will make prom seem like a joke.
Sometimes the kids make the right decisions and sometimes they don’t. And as a coach although it’s so hard to do, sometimes all you can do is just sit back and let them make mistakes but let them know that regardless of what they decide you will still love and support them.
So I can say that I feel I’ve gotten a little more knowledge about what parenting is about through this whole coaching thing (maybe I’m off base?) but if even if it’s just a taste of what is to come should I be so lucky, shout out to you parents. It’s a challenging and rewarding world you live in.