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Salute to Coaches

How I wish I’d kept a tally of the team sporting events I’ve watched.  Some families go to concerts or movies together; my family takes in spectator sports.  My children played t-ball, volleyball, basketball and swam on swim teams.  There was a time when our family’s weeks were busy with high school and Tennessee Tech basketball games.  We were there to watch the players and cheer on our team, but I watch the coaches too. Some scream and pace sidelines. Some stomp. Some yell plays.  Some sit calmly and stand only to call a time out.  Recently, I’ve watched and appreciate three of my Grands’ coaches.

            “Great play! Way to stop the ball!” Lucy’s soccer coach yelled.  Stephen’s words didn’t surprise me, but I was surprised that he was congratulating the opposing team’s goalie who caught the ball Lucy’s teammate had kicked.  Then he yelled to his player, “Great kick! You’ll score next time!”

            As I watched soccer practice one day, Stephen gave all fourteen players, ages 6-8, high-fives when they ran onto the field.  It was a structured practice.  Players ran and kicked balls around the perimeter of the field and Stephen encouraged them when they ran past him.  Then he and two assistant coaches divided players into small groups to practice skills and they ran the field with them, teaching and praising, when the players scrimmaged.  There were smiles, high fives, and one-on-one instruction.

            At the last game of the season, Stephen talked to each player.  He knelt to Lucy’s eye level and put his hand on her shoulder.  “Lucy, you work hard in practice.  You’re learning to be a great goalie.  I’m really glad you were on my team and when we play in the Spring, I want you on my team.”  He said more and then he placed a participation medal around her neck. Lucy held her head high and grinned; I wiped tears.

            Janet walked on the YMCA swimming pool deck as middle-school age students, including two of my Grands, swam during practice.  I couldn’t hear what Janet said, but I saw her wide smile and thumbs up when all finished swimming laps.  Several times each week, Janet holds practice and she schedules meets. Her smiles and encouragement are contagious. I’ve watched Elsie’s and Annabel’s confidence grow during this past year, and I give credit to Janet for providing this opportunity for them to use their natural abilities and love of swimming.

            Travis bent low to look up to his players, young teenage boys, as they huddled around him on the sideline of the basketball court.  He could’ve towered above them, but he looked up to hold his players’ attention.  During games, he’s calm and gives instructions.  “Cut across, Samuel,” he yelled to my Grand.  When a player threw the ball away, Travis grimaced and then quickly motioned with open palms toward the player to stay in control. 

            I salute Stephen, Janet, and Travis who are volunteer coaches.  Thank you for giving your time and your efforts to teach, and more importantly, to also model character.

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