A Coach's Impact

A Coach's Impact


I raised four kids, who played ball of every kind. My youngest is almost 18 now. For many years we lived sports and travelled around Southern California coaching, umpiring, refereeing, going to board meetings and raising money. We did it because we loved sports and the positive impact it had on our kids. My kids are all great kids. Sure, lots of stuff happens and things don't always go how we planned for them, but who am I to judge? I'm here to support them and they appreciate that. Some of them are already better parents than I was at 23 years old.


The bottom line is the perspective that you have to have as a coach. We have all seen sports parents who have no perspective at all. They boast about their kid who is the QB, the Pitcher, the Goalie and the Point Guard! These parents only care about the prestige their child brings them.


One day last year a girl requested me on a social media site, and I was shocked she even remembered me (and, I have to admit, I didn't remember her all that clearly at first). She is 22 years old, and I had coached her on a soccer all-star team when she was 11-half her life ago. We chatted online for a bit and then she asked for my phone number and gave me a call. This young woman started crying while telling me about some of the difficulties she had been having at college. I wasn't really following what she was talking about in the beginning. She went on to tell me about how her mom had intervened to help her out, but I still wasn't really following the story.


Then it came back to me-this girl had broken her back in mid-season the year she was on my team. The kid was a real firecracker. She had been a dominant player on that team, even at 11 years old. You know the type, the ones that have a surprising level of skill at a young age. They make the other kids look almost like toddlers on the field.


Meanwhile, the story she is telling me begins to come clear. She transferred from Virginia Tech to play volleyball at San Diego State. During the season she blew out her knee and felt like it was all over; she was going to quit, come home and not finish school. Her mom drove down and hand delivered an email I had sent her when she broke her back 11 years earlier. She read it and sent her mom home with no worries. She assured her mother that she was going to stay in school and graduate.


She was crying on the phone as she told me she has this letter framed and hanging on her apartment wall. All her friends read it when they come over, and she takes it down and reads it whenever she is feeling overwhelmed and bummed out. I was crying like a baby as she was telling me this. I don't even remember what I said in the letter. I couldn't believe that a letter I sent to this little girl could have that kind of an impact on her as an adult.


She graduated from college this year.


I coached sometimes two and three teams at a time for more than 10 years. In total I probably coached 500 kids or more. I don't remember how many games we won or lost, or which teams won the trophies. But that phone call was the coolest thing I ever received from anyone in my life other than my own kids.


At first I didn't have any plans to tell this story to anyone; it was enough satisfaction for me to know it for myself. But Mike, when I read your story about the young man who lost his father to cancer, it made such an impression on me that I realized my own story might also have value for others. When coaching young athletes you just never know when something you say or do might make a lasting impression-for better or for worse. This time, it was clearly for the better.


Thank you for allowing me to tell you about the impact I had on a young girl without even knowing it!


Anonymous Coach





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