There has been a lot of football in my life since last we spoke. Mine, my kid’s, The NWSS Hyacks and the BC Lions. This makes me happy. I won’t bore all y’all with endless dithering on things, so I’ll encapsulate with some highlights:
- My women’s team sits at 4-0. Go Bomb Squad!
- Farhan Lalji highlighted my son and his defensive efforts in the Hyacks football newsletter. Next stop, TSN. Or Broadway. Or a Nobel Prize. It’s up in the air really. But my kid is a genius. Just saying.
- I went to the NWSS Hyacks Homecoming game and didn’t stop smiling. Fun for all ages. Bouncy castles, shiny helmets and game ball was brought in by a skydiver. This should be a thing. Always.
- Went to an amazing football game on Saturday with the kid to watch the BC Lions trounce the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Jennings was cool, calm and collected, threw four touchdown passes (two to Arceneaux…who is still my favourite) and CAUGHT A TD PASS FROM COLLIE! Also, there was THIS KISS CAM (obviously a set up, but still brilliant) Richie Leone was…well…awful. I’m sorry Richie, but you were. You missed two converts and a 34 yard field goal. Not okay dude. And your pants are too short. Like really short. It’s weird. The Felions were severely shown up by the Washington Huskies Cheer Squad. WHICH HAD MEN IN IT TOO AND THEY WERE AMAZING! And we need more marching bands. Everywhere.
- Did I mention my football team sits at 4-0. I KNOW RIGHT?
- My son’s team played against another team and the coach was such a giant flaming asshole, it was all I could do not to punch him in the throat. Or walk off the field. Or both.
It is this last point that we will address in today’s missive.
Here’s a tip. If you are coaching kids…don’t be a dick. I’m going to let you in on a secret. If you are looking at coaching little kids as your pathway to fame and fortune, being a dick is NOT the way to do it. No adult remembers you fondly. They don’t say in their thank you speeches at the ESPY’s ‘my tyke coach was a complete ass hat and he was the best’. Or ‘I loved how he shamed us for being useless when we were seven. It was a totally life affirming moment that I will treasure always’.
That does not happen.
Don’t get me wrong. I get coaches being intense and hard asses. I get Old School coach yelling. I’m a bit guilty of it myself. ‘FOR THE LOVE OF GODZILLA WHY WON’T YOU ALL RUN IN THE SAME DIRECTION?’ ‘DON’T GO BACKWARDS? WHY ARE YOU RUNNING BACKWARDS?’ ‘STOP TOUCHING EACH OTHER? WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING EACH OTHER?’ ‘WHY IS NO ONE LISTENING TO ME?’But that is different from shaming. That is different than winning at any cost.
That is different than running a hurry up offence because your defence is five tired six and seven year olds who have been playing iron man because there are no subs and then saying ‘WHAT ARE YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT? The offence controls the ball!’ That is different than yelling ‘I can’t work with this line up! THEY ARE USELESS’, and then sending five little kids with their heads bowed off the field.
That’s not coaching. That’s being an asshole.
Here is the thing. I get where it is coming from. I am the most competitive human on the planet. Except for maybe my mother who once tried to kill me with a tennis ball. She said she was simply serving the ball, but I’m pretty sure Federer serves slower.
But I digress. Now is not the time for mother issues.
I get being competitive. I get wanting to win. My co-coach and I discuss this before every game. Each kid touches the ball. Each kid gets a chance at everything. They deserve the chance to throw that winning touchdown or catch that interception, or sack their running back THREE TIMES IN A ROW (which my kid did. Just saying). But we also play to win. If we are down, our strongest QB will take the third down snap or our fastest runner will take the hand off. And if we are ahead, we pull back so the other team doesn’t get hammered. The focus should be getting them to love the game. To love sport. Sometimes they will win, which is great, and sometimes they will lose, which sucks, but everytime they play, they should still walk off that field with their heads held high because they had fun, they tried hard, and their coaches are really really proud of them.
At the end of every game, I tell each kid what he did that made me proud. Every single one. I have one who scores like a fiend, but my favourite thing about him is that he is the best sport on the field. So I tell him that. And I tell him I wish I could catch as well as he does. Because I do.
I don’t do this to make me special. I do this because I had coaches that did that with me and it’s how I learned. Mr. Dougan. Mr. Zinkan. Mr Alexander. My dad. My mom. So many others that I’m too old to remember their names. They coached loud and hard, but they also lifted us up every game.
I hope you are reading this sir, and I hope in my heart of hearts that you have figured out that I am directing this to you. I’m sure you aren’t a bad person. I’m sure you think you’re making them better football players, but here’s a secret. You aren’t. Because they are going to stop playing. They will quit and do something else. Anything else. And they may never touch a football again, which is sad because it’s the greatest sport ever played.
But rest assured, they will remember you. They’ll remember you like I remember Mr. Smythe. As that asshole who made our entire basketball team cry because we embarrassed him. We were an unbeaten team who didn’t win by enough and we embarrassed him. I still remember him thirty years later, and I remember it as the last year I played basketball.
Is that how you want to be remembered?