Letter from a Volunteer CoachSubmitted by Brian Gaffney on March 16th, 2016
01/19/2016, 10:00am CST
By Minnesota Hockey
It was a home game. We were down 4-3 and I rolled the next line for the final shift. I heard it from the stands – it wasn’t the group of kids they wanted on the ice to close out the game. I wasn’t surprised.
The final buzzer sounded and I felt an anxiety wash over me, because I know that after I tell my players that I’m proud of the way they battled and praised them for positive moments in the game, some of the parents would have a different message – for me and for their kids.
I’m a volunteer. I’m a parent. My kid is on the team – and this is hard. I’m doing my best. I volunteered to coach because I thought it would be fun, I wanted to contribute, and, I genuinely care about this group of kids.
I like to think I know the game pretty well, but I know you sometimes disagree with me and my decisions. Hey, that’s OK. I would probably do the same if the roles were reversed, and I know I make mistakes just like the kids do. But what makes my job very difficult is knowing that some of you are contradicting my coaching on the car-ride home, at the dinner table and beyond.
As we pass the midway point of the season, it’s very natural for people to be “evaluating” and, of course, talking amongst each other at and away from the rink.
Can I ask for a little help? Please let us handle the coaching. Even if you don’t agree, please let your child be coached and let them understand the need to be coachable, receptive and respectful. In order for our team to be successful, we need you on board. You may not realize the type of impact your support of our lessons has, but trust me, it has a monumental impact on these kids.
As coaches, it’s our responsibility to push them and challenge them. That’s why we try so hard to make practices fun and engaging and energetic but at the same time forcing them into difficult situations and making them figure things out on their own. I want the kids to make mistakes. And then I want them to learn from those mistakes. Winning is fun, absolutely, but it isn’t everything. Far from it!
That’s why I strongly believe these kids deserve equal playing time – and I’m going to give it to them. They all signed up to play hockey. I don’t think I could sleep at night knowing I benched 10- or 11-year-olds or even 12- or 13- or 14-year-olds, over a bad pass or turnover. Why would they want to come back and play the next season?
Our team has lost more games than we have won this year – on the scoreboard. That does not make us failures. We certainly have failing moments on the ice, but we improve by learning from those failures. Our kids have also learned how to reflect and evaluate their individual and team performance. They have learned about performance factors and intangibles – things they have to learn through experience, not by being told. Adversity is something they will face in every facet of life. They cannot and should not be exempt from that, regardless of their age.
Lastly, I want to sincerely thank you for supporting your child’s love of hockey. I know how much of a commitment it can be. I’ll be honest with you. Sometimes after a long day of work, it’s hard to get excited about battling traffic, picking up my daughter, making sure she’s fed, and getting to the rink. Please know that your dedication is acknowledged.
Regardless of our differences in opinions of the game, we can support each other when it comes to the needs and goals of the team. Give it a shot. I promise, we will all enjoy the season a little bit more! Go team!