Letter to Coaches
Close your eyes and imagine when you first stepped on the field for your first high school game. Do you remember the adrenaline? Were you nervous? Now take that feeling and flash forward to your junior year on varsity. Being a starter on the field, and you have college scouts looking at you. You make a mistake and you hear your coach yelling at you on the sideline. You not only just let down your team but your coach is yelling and you and looking at you with such disappointment. How do you feel now? Is that passion for the game still there or do you feel as if nobody thinks you can do it and you feel like giving up? That passion you once had for the game you grew up playing is gone and being on the field feels like nothing. Where did that all stem from? Was it from the hours you would spend after practice trying to get your kick perfected or your change up to drop the right amount of speed? Or was it from your teammates who not only picked you up and told you it was not the end of the world, it was just a game and we are still a team? Maybe it was your parents, who have spent thousands of dollars on you to go through coaching clinics or to play travel ball? No, those don’t sound right do they? I have a feeling you see where I’m getting.
I used to play softball and soccer. I played competitive and high school ball and not once did my teammates, my parents or even the endless hours I spent in the gym or after practice ever make me want to quit. I always had the motivation and passion for the sports I played, I would do anything and everything to get better to get my coaches approval but that was the problem. I stopped playing for me and started playing for my coaches approval.
I played for that validation that one day I might actually make my coach proud. I waited and waited but never got it, so slowly I started giving up. I lost my passion for two games that I truly loved playing all because my coaches never gave me the opportunities to show my improvement. I was always compared to someone else and I was never praised for my ability, I was always scolded and my coaches put their pride first and foremost, never letting a loss go.
My senior year of high school, my softball team made it to playoffs. By that point, I was already done playing. I didn’t want to be on the field, representing a coach who never showed his appreciation for me. He always put me down, compared me to my sister and never coached me. I remember being on the pitching mound, listening my coach telling me that it was all up to me and if we lost then it would all be my fault. Because putting all that weight on an eighteen year old was the best way to win a game. I was so annoyed, all I wanted to hear was “Kylie, you can do this. I believe in you, you are an amazing athlete, dedicated and full of spirit, you can do this” I didn’t get that and never once heard that from a coach. So on my last pitch ever in my high school career, I made eye contact with the batter, gave her a head nod and gave her the perfect pitch. She hit the ball and over the fence it went, I looked at my coach, did a little bow, said “You’re welcome” and walked off the field.
I shared that story because now in my early twenties, I have started coaching and let me tell you, I have missed playing sports. I miss being on the field and I miss the feeling of having a team. What I don’t miss is being yelled at by a coach or being put down by them in hopes of them living their glory through me. Which is why, I never will become the coaches that I dealt with all throughout high school. So coaches, do me a favor and open your eyes.
You probably have an athlete on your team that was in my shoes and is begging for your validation. They probably know more about the game than you do or anyone on that field. They are probably the team leader but not a captain because in your eyes they aren’t strong enough to lead the team. Their teammates probably look up to them and go to them, instead of you, for advice on how to play a certain position. They probably go home from practice and practice even more, they don’t sleep because they are coming up with ways to please you. So do yourself a favor and acknowledge them. Tell them that you are so proud of them and the real reason why you are so hard on them.
I have seen some of the best athletes give up playing a sport because their coaches refused to acknowledge them. I have seen athletes lose passion for a sport that they grew up playing and never look back. So many athletes have given up on a sport because their coaches made them miserable and made them feel as if they could do nothing right. I have seen my sister get beaten down and put her body through hell just to please a coach who never gave her validation. I have played through torn meniscus and even played through the onset of my cancer just to please a coach who never gave me the time of day. I have watched one brother play through injury after injury and still go to work after games and practices just to please a coach who belittles him and tortures him but still plays because he won’t quit on his team. I watched my other brother play on a broken hip for two years just to please a coach who looks right over him on the bench and chooses someone else to go in, even though he gives it his all every time he is out on the field in both practices and game. I have watched coaches pull one brother off the field and replace him with the other brother because he was mad at one and was trying to be spiteful.
Coaches, you don’t realize this but you are the biggest reason why athletes give up and quit playing sports. You are the reason why when we are in our twenties and barely surviving on our own, sit back and wish they could be back on the field for the first time but can’t because of all the bad memories we still hold on to. Take your love for the game and share it with your team, don’t be the coach that you had. Be the coach that every player wants. Be the coach who inspires their team and helps them get through a tough loss. Don’t be the coach that makes a player give up on their love for the game. Help them use that love both on and off the field. Teach them to be respectful citizens.
I wrote this letter because I won’t lie, some coaches suck. They ruin the game for athletes and instead of building their players up they break them down beyond belief. I know that, as a coach, you may think that I am not speaking to you but I am speaking to all coaches. As as athlete, we spend more time with you as a coach than we do with our parents, our friends and our teachers. Your actions reflect our actions. We use your anger and take it out on something else, we slack off and we give up on a lot of things. Coaches, take some time to realize your actions and make it right. C.S Lewis says “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
Now is your chance to make things right, show your approval and praises for those athletes seeking it. Stop living your glory days through your team, teach them. Show them the ropes of being a respectable person both on and off the field. Your actions reflect the actions of your team. If you want your team to act right, you need to change your actions and be a role model for your athletes.
A Broken Athlete