As school calendars transition to another sports season, I think about coaches and the important role they play in a young person's life. You know, the underpaid (maybe even volunteer), passionate, pseudo-parent figures that ride the bus, huddle with the team and make difficult decisions. And, I think about the importance of thanking them for accepting and performing, what at times may appear to be, a thankless job.
Coaches know that they won't please everyone in every aspect of their job. But great coaches, regardless of the number of wins vs. losses, have characteristics we can appreciate and be pleased with. They emphasize teamwork, integrity, sportsmanship and leadership. If your child is fortunate to have a wonderful coach, they are developing athletic competence and most importantly, valuable life skills.
Teamwork is often one of the main reasons young people will choose to play a sport. The competition is exciting, but hanging out with their peers and developing friendships is too. Good coaches stress the importance of teamwork. Participants learn that a team is bigger than themselves and that they are responsible and dedicated to the larger group. By group efforts, the team endures the rough times and accomplishes great feats. A team wins and loses together. They know that a successful team has members that are encouraging, self-sacrificing and forgiving.
Holly M. Arnold is Region 2 Parent Resource Center coordinator for the NDSU Extension Service in Ward County.
Integrity, knowing one's values and doing the right thing even when no one is watching, can be difficult to uphold in the high-stakes, competitive world of sports. Successful coaches always lead their team to the high road on the field, on the court, in the pool, on the bus, in the locker room and in the classroom. Teammates learn that integrity and high standards of character will guide them as they face difficult decisions in and out of the game.
Sportsmanship, when modeled by coaches, allows the team to win and lose with grace. The best efforts can fall short yet there will be opportunities to try again. Young people learn that even though the playing field may not be level, playing fair is the only way to play. They recognize the importance of respect and lending a hand to both their teammates and opponents.
Leadership begins with the coach and extends to the players. The team looks to the coach to set the standards for acceptable language, behavior and conflict resolution. The coaches notice and praise the hard work, positive attitude, and rule compliance of their team. Coaches that are respectful have team members that are respectful to each other.
Take time to appreciate and thank the great coaches in your child's game of life.