Coaches, Make A Difference.

The punctuation in the title of this post is correct.  We all know that coaches can make a difference, but sometimes, a reminder needs to be sent to coaches about their purpose and their role in the lives of our kids.  So I say again: Coaches, make a difference!

I was doing some homework for a grad class last week.  The homework was based on a book called Lost Boys by Dr. James Garbarino.  The edition we were using for class is still the original 1999 writing so some of the ideas and themes are outdated; however, the basic idea is still intact.  Dr. Garbarino was using a string of school shootings in the late 90’s to illustrate that violence, particularly violence by young boys, was both on the rise in America and becoming noticeable in areas that used to be touted as “safe.”  His book is intended as a wake-up call to smaller communities, suburban communities, etc. – basically, anywhere that isn’t considered as the inner city of a major metropolis area.  While his research and thoughts are directly at boys, the principles he writes about are usable in high school athletics for both gender groups.

The theme of his study aside, there were some quotes in the reading that jumped off the pages at me.  Throughout the course of his writing, he offers suggestions and opinions as to how we can address the nation’s “lost boys,” those boys who end up walking on the wrong path and keep right on going.  Here are the first quotes that I wrote down:

“Adults outside the family can go out of their way to provide opportunities for stability and continuity in the child’s relationship with them.”
“With some boys, the answer [to being resilient] seems clearly linked to a compensatory relationship [with another adult].”
“One important anchor is the adults who commit themselves unconditionally to meeting the developmental needs of kids.”
“A boy who loses touch with himself as a participant in the future but who retains a sense of purposefulness of life can continue to lead a normal life in society.”
“A positive and stable emotional relationship provides a concrete image for a child.”

As I read those lines, the only thought I had was how that sounded much like the role a good coach should take.  I’ve written before about the positive influences that coaches should have on kids who are already involved in an activity.  This book brought home the importance of getting kids at an early age into activities where they are lead by a positive individual of strong character.   Dr. Garbarino writes about how the mind of a “lost boy” can be like a psychological vault where emotions can sit untouched, gaining interest, until something happens to open the vault so all of that negative emotion pours out.  Dr. Garbarino argues that these boys need someone who can help them convert that negative energy/emotion into something constructive.  They need a distraction from their own pain and problems.  Often, participation in an activity can be that distraction.

The other piece of this puzzle that effective coaches can address is surrounding the kids on their rosters with positive peer role models.  The isolation that many kids feel today – caused, in large part, due to the increase in technology and social media outlets – can be countered by creating a tight knit, positive social group for kids where they are surrounded by peers and adults who value their input and talent.  In my end of the year player surveys, I often get comments that suggest how much they value spending time with their teammates.  Kids on our teams love to spend time with their peers, so we need to do our part in making our locker rooms a safe place for kids to connect.

So, coaches, make a difference!  Make a difference in the lives of the kids you get to see for two hours every day.  Make your influence be something beyond defensive principles, offensive strategy, or simple skill learning.  We’ve all heard people talk about the great influence that some teacher or coach had on them in the past.  We need to strive to be that coach every single day to every single kid.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – President Theodore Roosevelt
“If I could build the ideal coach, I would start with someone who was truly interested in those under his supervision…” – John Wooden

Thoughts?  Comments? Suggestions?  Send them my way via email, Facebook, Twitter, or this page!

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