With the fall sports in full swing or touchdown, depending on your sport, I have seen more than my fair share of memes surrounding etiquette at the ball field. Despite the truth found in these little cartoon nuggets, I find it a bit sad that grown adults have to keep reminding each other that youth sports are exactly that.
We’re not talking about a life-or-death situation. Most grievances are surrounding the actions of a child during a game. Lets say it together: “A child. In a game.”
Maybe things would go a bit smoother if we could all agree that little Jenny’s/Johnny’s performance at today’s game likely won’t alter the fabric of time. Odds are slim that if he has the game of his life, he’ll receive a full ride to Clemson. Odds are equally as slim that she’ll be a failure in life if she blows this game.
Because it is just a game. Like Sorry or Monopoly. Except more expensive given the fancy pants and bats and receiving gloves and mouthpieces and cleats and concessions and high socks and all.
Given the 10,000 images I have seen regarding this topic, I’m not going to beat a dead horse. However, (you knew that was coming, right?!) since we now know to go easy on the actual athletes, I’d like to approach this from a different angle. I’d like to take my spot atop the soapbox and share my vantage point of youth sports as a coach’s wife. The woman lucky enough to be married to “that idiot.”
I hope you will not view me differently now that you know I hold the illustrious title of “Coach’s Wife.” True, it is a glamorous role filled with such perks as half-price pizza at the concession stand. Discounted because you stuck out the freshmen game until the bitter end and they were otherwise going to throw it away. Other perks include free root beer. Well, not exactly free, but rather found in the bleachers and one swig swallowed before you realize your child even has the bottle in his hands.
It’s really the little things, right? Glamorous.
Throw in the long nights, double practices if your spouse coaches multiple teams, weekend obligations, and limited family time during the actual playing season, and I basically feel like Beyoncé.
But only Beyoncé if Jay-Z wrote all of his music, sold all of his music, and held all of his concerts for mere pennies.
I’m sure you’re feeling the sarcasm pretty heavily at this point. Truthfully, just to boldly lay it out there, I’m not exactly the best at being a coach’s wife. I wasn’t always that way though. I really tried to excel in the early years. We hosted players at our house for Taco Tuesdays and chili suppers. I knew their names and their parents. I knew who I was cheering for on Friday nights. I was all in. I was vested.
But then my own babies started arriving and I begrudged the time my husband spent on kids I no longer knew. I was more than a little bitter that precious spare moments were spent on staff meetings versus a trip to the pumpkin patch with the family. My husband happens to coach football, so fall has become a tug of war of emotions over the last decade. Fortunately, I’ve eased up.
I recognize his passion, appreciate his input into the lives of young men, and try to just zip my lip from August through October.
For me, the zipping part is often impeded by my big mouth. But I’m trying.
I share all of this because it has been a struggle for me to sacrifice time with my husband. And I’ve been more than a little irritated when our kids have been impacted by his absence. But nothing has ever chapped my hide quite as much as hearing parents bash a coach from the sidelines, stands, or in line at the grocery.
As a parent of players myself, I understand the emotions involved in a game. I understand the adrenaline rush of watching your kid make a play or the disappointment when it doesn’t come to fruition. I know I’ve questioned my own kids’ coaches and their calls more than once. However, if you cross the line and start to dog a man or woman who has voluntarily chosen to spend most of their free time coaching your child to be a better athlete and individual, you… you… well, you are not a nice person (keeping it family-friendly here).
My thoughts on this matter are broken down into age-specific groups:
This man/woman has agreed to corral children who have zero attention span and the energy of rabid animals. He is paid nothing. Nothing.
This coach is giving up precious time, when he could be binge-watching Stranger Things and eating Doritos, in the hopes that his efforts might result in one goal, run, or first down.
This coach is typically incredibly patient and more concerned about basic skills and having fun than imparting tourney-winning practices.
Middle School/High School
This coach spends countless hours on his sport both on and off the field. I cannot emphasize hours enough. Years ago when “encouraging” my husband to consider another summer activity, we did the hourly pay breakdown for his coaching. I have blighted the number from my memory and refuse to calculate again for fear that I will once again campaign for him to quit and start delivering pizzas instead. Needless to say, these coaches do not do it for the money.
The list of responsibilities goes well beyond play books. Every coach has different requirements, but the coaches I happen to know are in charge of washing/drying jerseys, handling equipment, checking grades, setting up tutors, spotting lunch money when needed, making hospital visits (there have been a couple in recent years alone), writing college entrance and scholarship application letters, ensuring the field gets watered, hosting clinics and camps, assisting with fundraisers, working through personal issues with the players’ parents, and on and on I could go.
The time coaches devote cannot be overstated. Many are skilled. Many are not. Many volunteer to create a winning team. Many volunteer to spend precious hours with their own child. But bottom line is, these people have chosen to get involved. So when I hear someone railing a coach from the sidelines, I want to scream several things. I am unfortunately prohibited from saying many of them due to the whole “family-friendly” approach I’m taking here. Of my more tame thoughts, I would like people to consider that:
1. Out of all the hours this coach spends with your child, you’re likely witnessing roughly 15–35% of the week’s events during a game. There is so much more that goes on outside of the game. You know the play you just witnessed completely fall apart? The one the coach decides to run again despite the fact that parents are screaming for him not to because he’s a moronic, jack glass? (Pretty sure that’s what they said…) Well, what the loud mom and dad don’t know is this play was executed perfectly in practice no less than 10 times.
2. You might not understand why a certain kid is playing a certain position. Well, guess what? You don’t have to. I say this from a point of complete personal confession because I have grilled my husband about how and why our own son was playing a certain position — primarily because I don’t understand anything about football (sad, given the fact that my husband began coaching in 2002) but also because there have been a few times I didn’t understand why he had been moved from a spot at which I felt he excelled. Bottom line, not my business. If I care that much, I need to volunteer to run practices and stand on the sidelines.
3. These coaches, especially those in the higher grades, serve as a support system for their players. Some kids don’t have home lives that provide stability, protection, or support. For those who do, when has it ever hurt to have another adult watching out for your child’s well-being and encouraging them to excel?
So the next time you’re tempted to scream at the “idiot coach” volunteering (or darn near volunteering) his time at a youth sporting event, remember that idiot just might be my husband.
* Written and published with the blessing of my main squeeze who happens to be my favorite coach and very much NOT an idiot.