Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dad Coaches: "Have Fun. Winning Is Fun!"

Dad Coaches:   “We’re Gonna Have Fun.  Winning Is Fun”

My daughters won their school’s State Championship in soccer last Saturday.  My senior daughter said goodbye to an incredible coach she’s had for four years. 

School coaches do a great job teaching the nuances of their sport to kids who already know the basics.  But who taught them the basics?  Dads (and moms) who sacrificed their patience and sanity coaching church and community leagues since their kids were spastic kindergartners.

A good Dad-coach knows his players in ways a school coach can’t.  He’ll call Katie before a game to reassure her she can handle that tall #23 under the basket.  He knows Anna’s gonna cry if he yells.  And he knows Alexa likes chocolate milk with her pancakes after his daughter’s sleepover. 

A good Dad-coach will angrily throw his clipboard down.  And at least once each season, he’ll be ejected from the ball park and watch the game from his car for uttering “another word” when the umpire orders him not to.

He knows how to smile nicely while questioning a ref’s masculinity.

He knows how to beat the Star Wars pin ball machine at Garibaldi’s after games.

He knows trash talk is just as crucial as a good helmet.

And the best team isn’t always the one that looks best on paper.  

A good Dad-coach is also über-competitive.  In second grade, my daughter played on a basketball team coached by her friend Grace’s dad.

In the championship game, they were short a player because of a stupid family wedding or something, and Grace, the best player on the team, was injured.  Naturally, Coach John sent his daughter onto the court as if she was simply sporting a bandaid on her toe instead of a giant orthopedic boot.

The ref, a teenage boy with video game needs, wasn’t going to get paid for a forfeit, and boots weren’t prohibited in the manual he didn’t read. So game on.

Soon Grace flew through the air, diving for a loose ball.  My daughter Catherine, a 3 1/2 ft. Dick Butkus, but twice as mean, joined the fray and Grace’s boot cut her forehead.

The ref, at the sight of blood, was thrown into a Call of Duty virtual war zone haze so Coach John stopped the game.  I let John handle it because I’d get my Mom Card taken away if I approached my child on a court/field unless her eyeball was falling out.    

After the game, I called John’s wife who wasn’t there.  “We won!  And Grace scored 15 points!! 

“What?”  Silence.

“Oops.  Well, I really can’t talk right now because I’m taking Catherine to get, um . . . stitches . . . her head ran into Grace’s boot, um . . . we have a bad connection,” I said.

“Are you telling me John let Grace play?  What the heck was he THINKING?” she asked. 

“I don’t know, but Catherine’s beaming.  She said Coach John taught them something today—’Don’t come in second.  That’s just being the first loser.’”

Poor John, our brave, competitive Dad-coach won on the court that day, but I’m sure he paid the price at home that night.  Licking his wounds, he probably just left the house for awhile and worked on his pinball game at Garibaldi’s. 

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