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.
Happy #FathersDay to all the coaches I see:
Give a shirt off their back to serve;
Live with integrity despite adversity;
Teach mental toughness;
Celebrate and comfort in joy & sadness;
Show up every day to get after it;
Understand biology is only one part of being a great dad pic.twitter.com/1rcpq5IFX0
— Roseanna Smith (@CoachSmith67) June 18, 2018
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.