Dear Parents: A letter from a coach’s wife
By Emily Erson
Words of wisdom from a coach’s wife
Dear Parent in the Stands,
You know who you are. You’re the one who knows everything, yet contributes nothing. You’re the one waiting with bated breath to find flaws in everything—the team, the coach, and other people’s children. I am ashamed that you wear the same logo as my child because your actions are not in line with what I want sports to teach them.
You probably don’t realize this, but I stand off to the side for a reason. With the season well underway, as a coach’s wife I watch as my husband is forced to make decisions to benefit the team. It upsets you when your kid is not at the center of those tough decisions. My question to you is, “Are you here to be a member of a team, or are you more concerned with personal accomplishments?” I am curious to know because we are here to play a team sport. If personal accolades are your goal, may I suggest golf or tennis?
Yes, I am a coach’s wife. My husband, the coach, the guy who is supposed to make decisions about this group, is looking to create the strongest combinations of kids. His goal is not to showcase your child and their talent. Don’t get me wrong, he or she is an asset, but so is every child—in some way.
At night, after he takes 15 minutes to read his own children a story, he’s racking his brain for drills to help the weakest link on this team develop the confidence they need to contribute. If I had to guess, that’s the same kid you are saying is terrible on your car rides home from games.
Believe it or not, “that kid” hears what you say about him or her from the stands. And every negative remark you make, my husband has to counter so that he can rebuild that child’s confidence to continue with the game. May I remind you that these are kids? They may be teens, but the teenage years are awkward. That will carry over into their performance. And it’s normal.
Turning Negative Into Positive
My husband is also trying to find ways to connect with your child because your chronic complaining has driven a wedge in their relationship. Now the respect necessary for him to help your child doesn’t exist. So, despite how skilled he or she is, he’s not an asset any longer because you have planted the same seed of negativity that is consuming you in his head as well.
Negativity spreads like a cancer on any team. So, not only is my husband trying to help the kids overcome their physical and mental weaknesses in practices and games, he’s now charged with battling the pessimism you’ve planted on his bench.
You see, when you get in your car after the games and start giving your armchair analysis of what happened you make it even harder for my husband to get your kid to listen. What you don’t understand is that the game looks a lot different in a coach’s eye, because his attention is directed at how the group is functioning. Your focus is mostly directed at your child’s performance.
When you bash the coach and the choices they are making in a role you didn’t volunteer to fill, you are making their job harder. When you make their job harder, it affects the entire team.
Here are a few things you don’t know about my husband. He took on a job that not too many people want to take. And notice I said “job” because it takes a lot of work—work he doesn’t get paid for. Yet, he’s undervalued and overworked.
No one was willing to step up and volunteer their time to manage this group of 13-year-old kids. You want to know why? 13-year-old boys don’t like to listen. In fact, they think they know everything. That’s why the volunteer list is short. I’d be willing to bet that this is the reason your name was not on it.
I am guessing you don’t know this about my husband, but he has a particular way of approaching every kid on this team. He has gone to great lengths to break down walls to find ways to motivate and communicate with all of the kids, because they all have something to give.
Coach as Motivator
There is one thing that makes my husband stand out as a great coach. It’s not his ability to help players polish their strengths; it’s the way he teaches kids to embrace their imperfections. He’s a firm believer that you care about people with their flaws, not in spite of them. He’s an even stronger believer that your shortcomings are what drive you to become better at any challenge you face in life.
So, when you see that weak link out there in a position that forces them to overcome one of their imperfections, that is my husband showing that child (yes, child—not professional athlete) they have what it takes not only in this game but in life. My husband is there coaching them and encouraging them to face their shortcomings, regardless of what people like you are saying about them in the stands (again, because they hear your damaging remarks).
That’s what good coaches do. They don’t put the stronger and more skilled kids in places to compensate for their teammate’s weaknesses. They teach kids how to acknowledge and overcome their limitations.
Can you say the same? Not from where I am standing. And I am standing far away because your pessimism is not something I want to catch.
My husband, as well as almost every person who takes on the role of a coach, is a good person with great intentions, and undying commitment and loyalty to other people’s children. It’s sad that you can’t see that.
It’s even sadder that he comes home deflated because nothing he does pleases you. Your constant berating has blinded him. His focus is shifting from the kids to pleasing you. That is not what is best for all of these kids. The once positive, motivated man who cared about showing kids they have what it takes is becoming overly concerned with making a selfish individual happy. He can’t see that nothing will make you happy. You don’t want to be happy, you just want to point out what is wrong with everyone else—even children. It’s not my husband who is failing as a coach; it is you who is failing as a person.
I’d really like to leave you with one last thought. I am an adult. My husband is an adult. We’ve come across several people like you in our years in youth sports. We can easily let your harsh words and embarrassing remarks roll off our back. Your child, not so much. Your behavior will be something they remember when he or she thinks back on their experience playing youth sports.
This time is supposed to be one filled with happy memories. Perhaps you should stop worrying about who is playing where and start worrying about how you can get ahold of your emotions. You don’t want to take what could be amazing experiences and memories away from your child, and right now they’re embarrassed of you.
The Coach’s Wife
Emily Erson, the On the Job Mom, spends her time working with youth hockey programs and animal rescue organizations. She is a mother, teacher, and hockey mom extraordinaire. Her passions lie in this order: kids, dogs, hockey, coffee (she needs the coffee to keep up with the kids, hockey, and the dogs). Published with permission.