Coaching From the Heart

Michael - Beverly Hills, Michigan
Entered on May 15, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: children, sports

I believe that amateur sport coaches can have a truly positive impact on young players. If a player is coached with caring respect, it will be reflected in the way they treat others to the benefit of all. I also believe the converse is true.

A few years back I was coaching a bantam tournament only roller hockey team. These were all hand picked players. I wanted to add Jacob to our roster but my assistant warned against it. Jacob was a natural athlete and hockey player with loads of energy. But even though he had first round draft skills he was usually drafted as a number two or three pick. He had an explosive temper and on more then a few occasions had to be physically pulled off the rink at the end of his shift, disruptive traits for a hockey player. Jacob was also one of five siblings all from different fathers, a failing student and a class bully.

I overruled my assistant and personally asked Jacob to join our team. He was very disruptive for the first few practices. He randomly shot pucks at other players, did not follow drills and constantly questioned the coaches.

Jacob’s grandfather always drove him due to his mother’s work schedule. After a number practices Jacob arrived at the rink on a Wednesday without his grandfather. When queried, Jacob steely replied, his grandfather died a few days ago. I offered my condolences.

At the start of practice the team and coaches met at center rink to discuss the practice strategy. Once this was done I told everyone to drop their sticks and gloves, to remove their helmets and get down on one knee for 30 seconds in honor of Jacob’s grandfather. All players immediately complied. Jacob, the harden bully and hockey player had a tear in his eye, as did I. After 30 seconds of silence we all rose and commenced practice.

From that point forward Jacob did all that we asked of him. He no longer questioned a drill, in fact many times leading the drill. I let him know that other players and parents noticed the change, he beamed. We received his respect by giving him respect; this is just how it works sometimes.

Before the next tournament Jacob spent the night at my house. We had a 6:00AM game. I walked Jacob around my house pointing out all the children’s toys and sporting equipment. I asked him if he liked what he saw, he said yes. I told him the only way he was going to get to this point someday was to study hard and stop getting into trouble at school.

Jacob quit playing hockey. A few years later I ran into his mother. She said he was no longer fighting in school and was a near straight A student. She attributed this directly to how we, as coaches, treated Jacob with caring respect.

I believe in coaching with respect.