Boys to Men

As a coach, there are few things that rival the thrill of victory.  It’s humbling, satisfying,  and rewarding…it’s fun!

Losing?  It just plain sucks.

The scoreboard will always be a part of coaching and oftentimes the most visible part.  For many coaches, it is the judge and jury and it holds the fate of their family in its hands.  When we sign our contracts, we accept this as the world we have chosen to live in.  And most wouldn’t choose to do anything else!

So, what draws one to coach?

I’m sure the reasons vary and it’s most likely a combination of things but I believe in the vast majority of cases, somewhere in the equation, is the burning desire to make a positive difference.  The reverend Billy Graham once quipped, “A coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in a lifetime.”

Now, I’m not sure where he gets his data but far be it for me to question Reverend Graham…that man had friends in high places!  So I’m going to take his word for it.  Plus I believe he is right.

For coaches, what a great opportunity.

What a great responsibility.

During my quiet time each morning, I thank God for the opportunity to impact the lives of those I encounter that day.  For most of my coaching career, this has been young men.  Seventh graders to seniors….thousands of them.  Along with thanking Him for the opportunity, I also ask to be mindful of the responsibility that accompanies this opportunity.  In my position, my words will influence.  My actions will speak volumes.

Like many of my brothers in the coaching profession, my purpose is to take the game (that’s the dangling carrot) and use it to help boys learn about life.  Along the way, hopefully, I will have a positive impact on their journey toward becoming a man….and most likely a husband and father.  

It’s being a father that has my attention today.  Because the world needs good fathers…and a lot more of them.

We all know the statistics.

For the most part, kids that come from a household with both biological parents have a decided advantage in life.  That’s a blessing.  These kids didn’t do anything to earn this situation any more than the kids who come from single parent homes, blended families, or any other situation deserved theirs.  Sometimes kids are the victim of adult decisions.  Sometimes we are all a victim of life in a fallen world.

As a coach of primarily male athletes, I also know that boys who grow up without a father in the picture are at a decided disadvantage.  Life has put them behind the eight ball and the only thing worse than this is they are now much more likely to put their children in the same situation.  That’s why male coaches have to show up.  We have to do more to put value on being a good father.  Our kids need it.  Our families need it.  Our society needs it.

Well, how can we do this?

First of all, we can talk about the value of fathers.  We can talk about the attributes, responsibilities, difficulties, and rewards of fatherhood.  Sure, this may not mean much at the time to a seventh grader who thinks his jock strap is a head band but it starts to plant seeds.  For high school coaches, fatherhood may already be a part of some of their athletes’ lives or in their very near future.  Whatever the situation, we can’t waste our opportunity to address the importance of a father’s role in the life of his children.

One of the points I always try to make is that for the most part their present family situation is outside of their control.  They have a role to play just like they do on the team but a lot of their circumstances, especially when they are young, are determined by the choices of their parents.  Whatever these decisions are, they can be learned from.  They’ll eventually do some things in their own families because it had a positive impact on them as kids.  Unfortunately, they may also be experiencing things that negatively impact their life.  They may have little influence over this now but the day will most likely come when they can choose to do better in their family.  They can break the cycle.  They have the power to turn a negative into a positive but we may be the influence they need to realize this.  Words carry weight and it’s up to us to speak hope into situations that may presently look hopeless.

Secondly, if we are fathers, we need to model and be examples of what a good father should be. Whatever our marital status may be, we never stop being a father.  I was divorced when my daughter was 2 so I know this can be difficult but I also know the one it was hardest on was my daughter and she deserved to have her father in her life regardless of the decisions made by her parents.  Though I wouldn’t wish divorce on anyone, it did give me a greater understanding of what many of my players were dealing with themselves and I needed to model for them (as well as my own daughter) the importance of using a negative situation in my own life to help someone else.  It was meaningful for them.  It was invaluable for me.

One way I tried to model for my players the importance of being a good father was on the Wednesdays during basketball season when I would have my daughter from 6:00-8:00.  *I would usually have to leave practice a little early on these days so I explained to my players early in the season what I was doing and why I was doing it.  They knew if I was missing practice it was important and I was always blessed to have many gracious, understanding, and high character young men that understood the situation.  Some of them all too well.  They were easy to pick out.  They were usually the one’s nodding their head with understanding or lowering their head to hide their tears.

It never failed that I would usually leave while the players were finishing up their free throws so as I walked around the gym giving each player a “fist” I would get comments such as, “Have a good time with your daughter, coach.”  As much as I was trying to show them the importance of being a good dad more often than not they showed me I had little to worry about.

Finally, one of the most rewarding parts of coaching for me is having the opportunity to tell the children of my former players how blessed they are to have such good fathers.  Whether it’s crossing paths in the grocery store, at a local restaurant, or around the school I always love being able to say, “You are one lucky kid! You must have won the dad lottery because you got one of the best one’s!”

It’s important to me that my former players know how I think of them as well as taking the opportunity to remind them of the responsibilities of being a dad.  Whether they can still stroke the 3 or play in the passing lane doesn’t mean much now but if they learned something about the value of being a good dad then I’ve done my job…no matter what the scoreboard says.


*I was very blessed to have assistants that would graciously finish up practice, monitor the dressing room, start the wash, and lockup when I would need to leave early to pick up my daughter.