A letter to high school coaches:
As this sport grows, we find ourselves somehow saying yes to things far outside of our comfort zone because we love our kids, or maybe because we still love and cherish a sport we knew when we grew up. There are career high school coaches, who live and breathe the sport and their teams and there are parents who jumped in because no one else would. We have just graduated from college kids turned coaches, teachers turned coaches, dads, moms, and everything in between serving our lacrosse community in our high schools now.
If you are one of these servants to the sport, and truly that is what you are because those county stipends rarely cover the gas to get to practice and treats we buy for them, then you aren’t going to be surprised to hear that it’s open season on coaches these days. Sometimes these parent forced coaching staff turnovers are for the good of the kids, but what I’m seeing is good, caring coaches who can’t please everyone being turned out and replaced for sticking to values and consistently enforcing work ethic, timely attendance and accountability. Because of the lack of knowledgeable lacrosse coaches, when a coach is turned out or leaves a program because they are miserable, there isn’t anything behind them to bring in and the cycle of parent discontent continues.
When you truly love and care about your players, the sting of that one parent or player that want to control when everyone plays, not allow you to make corrections – no matter how gently you correct, is more intense and steals your focus more than the 10 or so other parents and players who sing your praises or the parents who remain silent and indifferent.
Sometimes we are going to ask ourselves why we are here, why we take the attacks, why we try to keep peace when clearly pleasing everyone is not possible. Sometimes as the season comes to a close we are going to look at our own families and we are going to wonder why we are trading time with our own kids and spouse to spend with a team that sometimes puts every word and action under a microscope despite the hard work and love we pour out on these kids daily. There’s going to be times more often than not when the players translation to their parents or peers of what you carefully said will baffle you beyond understanding, when that kid that you put extra time and effort into helping out that season will somehow think you don’t like them one day because they didn’t start or some other reason, and the wrath of their angry parents will find you in an email or phone call and you will throw down your whistle and clipboard in frustration and think about walking away.
My message to coaches is this: Don’t stop, the amount of lives that you are changing with your service, your genuine love of your players is making a difference and the lacrosse community needs you. Take your summer off, say no to those off season clinics if you need to recuperate from a difficult season but don’t leave. Make an action plan with your athletic director for difficult situations that may arise next season, surround yourself with support coaching staff and the parents that believe in what you are doing. Be upfront about your coaching philosophy and don’t stray from it for anyone. There will be seasons that are easier and some that are more difficult than others, so if this last season was a rough one – remember they are called seasons for a reason, they will pass and another one will come along.
Those players who come back years later and say that you changed their life, that you gave them confidence, support when they desperately needed it, those are the kids we are out there for. There will never be a season of perfection. We are going to mess up, and even if we don’t I can promise someone will find fault with you anyway for something. Remember why we are here, look at the frightening news in the world and drive on, push forward and keep making a positive impact that is so desperately needed with our kids.
From one coach to another, thank you for being a part of something so much bigger than ourselves, so important, so hard, and yet so rewarding.
“We don’t get burned out because of what we do. We get burned out because we forget why we do it.” Jon Gordon