Editor’s Note: This post was written by Eric Colby, who works here at Empowering Parents in sales. Eric is also the father of two kids, ages 12 and 9, both of whom he has coached in recreational sports for many years. Eric has had a varied career, covering the boating industry as a award-winning journalist for 27 years. A former offshore powerboat racer, Eric holds the “unofficial” title of fastest journalist on the water having run 172 mph.
I’ve coached my 12-year-old son in myriad sports since the first grade. As my wife will attest, volunteering to coach kids can be an emotional roller coaster. I take it seriously and want to make sure I give the kids my all when it comes to teaching them about sports and life. When you see the thrill on a kid’s face after he or she scores a first goal or gets that first hit, you can’t help but cheer.
As is often the case, I’m usually harder on my son than on anyone else. It comes with the territory. That goes for his conduct on and off the court or field, so when I heard that during this year’s basketball season he had said to a teammate who is not as skilled as he is, “We would have a better chance of winning if you broke both your legs,” I was simultaneously saddened and embarrassed. First came the “I can’t believe he said something like that” exasperation, then the embarrassment of knowing my child had uttered something so hurtful.
No matter how many conversations we’ve had about sportsmanship and being a good teammate and person, I can’t control him when he’s on his own. He made a mistake this time and he knew what he had to do.
My son has a habit of ending confrontations quickly, sometimes using words that hurt more than he intended. It’s happened at home with my wife and I and also with his younger sister. He realized this was one of those times and he said he instantly regretted saying those words as soon as they came out of his mouth. When I told him to apologize, there was no pushback, no “C’mon dad do I really have to?”
I was not there for the apology, but I trust my son and believed that he did say what needed to be said to make amends. At the team’s next practice, I asked the insulted boy and his mom if Blake had apologized and they both said he had. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved. The other boy said that he appreciated the sincerity of my son’s apology and even supported the coaches’ (I coach with another dad) choice of my boy as one of two representatives from our team in the All Star game.
“It’s hard for adults to apologize so I can imagine how hard it was for him to do that,” said the mom. “My son was really grateful for that.” At the end of the season, the boy’s father shook my hand and thanked me for coaching his son this season.
As far as the roller coaster ride that is volunteer coaching goes, I’m not done yet. We’re getting ready for baseball season and one of my son’s friend asked if I was coaching this year.
“I want to be on his team,” the friend said. “He’s like my second dad.” Sign me up.