Family ties

Gratitude Improves Attitude, More than Football

I started coaching football in 2010.

As with many things in life, it was a headfirst leap. I was hired at the end of the week and reported to practice on Monday.

That year was full of highlights: great kids, important mentors and stories I’ll never forget, but one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned was off the field.

We were fortunate to have a booster club who wanted to provide team meals on Wednesday nights after practice. Like clockwork, a spread of hot lasagna and garlic bread and cold salad, drinks and dessert appeared in the field house. Just as quickly, it disappeared.

During this time, I learned that the same stupid fart jokes that were funny 20 years ago were still pretty relevant. I tried to keep conversation more productive as I met with the offensive line to look at plays or quiz them on assignments.

…….

One day, one conversation ended with an off-handed comment from a freshman: “Thanks mom.”

Taken a bit by surprise, I fired back: “You know I’m not your mom, and I’m sure she’d be disappointed to hear you said that.”

I’ll never forget his response: “Well, she died … so I’m not really sure what she’d think.”

 

Talk about a gut punch.

 

I’m not sure what weak apology I managed to blurt out, but I felt like I ran the jerk store.

I still do when I think about moment.

…….

Football creates a family for all of us, in different ways.

As a young coach, I fought the idea that kids would look at me like a parent.

Now I understand that they need it sometimes … for different reasons. All of us come from different circumstances and start with a unique mix of support, dynamics, resources and challenges.

Our job as coaches varies … but rarely is it just how to play a game. We give advice, create relationships, help set standards, build a leadership mindset, share in tough times, celebrate big life moments, and many crazy and wonderful things in between.

The educators I work with do the same thing for hundreds daily.

 

I could never apologize enough for my flippant remark, but I have used that experience to get to know my players, by listening more and talking less.

This moment helped crystallize the great advice I saw once on a church billboard: “be kind, for everyone is fighting a tough battle.”

Football is family, after all.

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