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Challenge: Extraordinary Teachers

Dear Coach Who's Feeling Defeated After Today's Whoopin'

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You lost today. It wasn’t pretty. And while it’s probably the easiest thing in the world to let yourself define happiness/success by scores and statistics, it is so much more, so much bigger than that. It is truly defined in the faith you have in your team, in their desire to learn from you, even – or especially – when they’re having an Alexander kind of terrible, awful, no good, very bad sports day. The success is in the fact that your team walked away with a lesson in accountability tucked into their sweaty uniforms, in the fact that they were held to a standard of lifting up teammates and not breaking them down. The success of today is that even in the midst of (let’s face it) an awful athletic performance, you stated firm and fair expectations without yelling. You modeled grace in the face of a loss.

But what I feel is the most important success is that these athletes are learning to develop a team, a family, a safe place of respect and not just a heartless scoring machine. I, for one, would much rather have a team that experiences these tough losses but has a positive role model at the helm while they’re going through them. Winning is nice, but in ten years, my kid will remember your influence and not the team’s record; I guarantee you.

I told my daughter once that watching her play volleyball is one of my favorite things to do. She thinks I’m crazy (well, let’s face it; I am). But one of the reasons I love watching her play is win or lose, she has almost always been part of a family that was dressed up in matching spandex. She has been blessed by a line of coaches who not only love the sport but who also understand that sometimes the losses will outnumber the wins, and what matters at the end of the day are the lessons learned and the integrity maintained. She enjoys this game, this world. And you, Coach, are an integral part of that world. You help make that enjoyment happen. My kid feels respected. She feels like you hear her when she talks. She feels like she has a place. Those lessons are coming through even when her mom is yelling at a referee because she has you, standing on that sideline encouraging in the one voice that matters more to her and to the rest of these girls than any of the ones inappropriately and emotionally spazzing out in the stands.

Mourn the loss. I’ll give you that one. It was a sucky day. They didn’t play up to their potential. They made silly mistakes. But as many have reminded me so many times, “They’re kids.” Yes. Yes, they are. And these kids will stumble and fall while they’re learning, just like you and I do. I know I am not alone in telling you how grateful I am that you are there for them while they’re stumbling. This parenting thing is a tough business, and we’ll take all the help we can get. That includes a coach who has earned our kids’ respect and admiration when we may not be feeling it quite so much. That includes a person our kids know they can look to for guidance and emotional support. That includes you. So, while we’re marking today with an “L” on the Wins/Losses chart, let’s throw about 1,000 asterisks next to it with the qualifier that lists all those other, much more important life lessons of wins.


The inappropriately emotional, spazzy mom who appreciates you more than you know.

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