Coaches: We Need You & You’re Appreciated!

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Prince William Hockey Club U16 Panthers

By Jeff Dorschner, WSN

Here’s why coaches are appreciated, both on and off the sidelines

Let’s talk about why coaches are appreciated, both on and off the sidelines.

I have come across many coaches who do a fantastic job of putting aside the stress and portraying the utmost professionalism that is demanded of the head coaching position. Deep down they may be battling through a number of issues out of the arena, but they will never admit it. There may be no specific trend during the length of a season or school year, but as the notable coaches of the world put out their annual “Coaching Changes” lists in the respective sports they cover, I always find myself wondering who has decided enough is enough. 

There are certainly many reasons why some of the greats (and maybe not so greats) have decided to step away from the game. Every situation, school, town, and sport is different. There is no shame in making the decision; coaching can take a toll on a person mentally, physically, and emotionally. There is no doubt about it.

Maybe your kids are getting older, and missing their band concerts, dance recitals, youth games and practices is just not an option. It could be that spending your Friday nights with your spouse or getting a head start on a weekend of relaxation is a higher priority now. Some of you may enjoy the freedom of doing whatever without the interruption of a summer league or preseason tournament. 

Are You Appreciated as a Coach?

If we want to get right down to it, maybe it’s simply because as a coach you feel you just are not appreciated. The group of parents, the lack of administrative support, the players that are not fully committed, as well as your significant other’s frustration of being a “widow” during the season (or during the entire year), etc., may not be worth the hassle. The friends you thought you had in the community might give you the strong impression that they have turned on you. Your spouse and kids do not want to come to the games anymore to support you and the program because of the chatter going on in the stands. 

For you veteran coaches, the coaching fraternity appreciates and respects you. For you “hall of fame” coaches that see the light at the end of the tunnel or are on your last stretch, enjoy your much-deserved time away. However, for those younger coaches who are struggling with the decision of whether this avocation is worth the stress and heartache, take comfort in that there are better days ahead.

To those coaches who are just coming off a weekend of running a youth tournament or program fundraiser that are tired and sleep deprived, their development will be key down the road. To those coaches who were not present mentally with their family over the weekend because of a heart-wrenching loss on a Friday night, or an unpleasant email from a disgruntled parent, as emotionally draining as those can be, we need you and we appreciate you.

Any coach will tell you that they do not necessarily need to hear those words from players, parents, alumni, or administration. Coaching is a labor of love and the great ones have embraced that over the years. The upward trend of coaching turnover is alarming and as an athletic administrator, one of the more daunting tasks of this role is to fill vacant coaching positions.

Whenever I see those coaching changes lists come out, and some of the names that show up on it are very talented and driven coaches that for one reason or another decide to hang up their whistle, it is a tough pill to swallow. 

Coaches Are Always Harder on Themselves

As coaches, we spend a lot of time reflecting. That reflection may cover a week, a month, a season, or a career. We are always harder on ourselves than any parent or member of the community. The spark that ignited the fire inside of you early in your career may be flickering a little bit. Although this may sound cliché, your impact is far greater than you realize. The middle school kid that is coming up—or that promising freshman in your program—is looking forward to having you as their coach. What you do does matter and while the vocal minority may express the exact opposite, your school and your community would agree.

I would be lying if I told you those thoughts have never crossed my mind. Very recently I had a conversation with my significant other that it might be time. Thankfully she is about as supportive as anyone could ask for, and when my six-year old son overheard our conversation and asked, “Dad, who’s going to coach me when I play baseball?” it was all I needed to hear to keep on keeping on.

So whether you are the head coach or are an assistant, stoke that fire and prepare for that next practice or season. The pay is lousy, the hours are horrible, and the conditions sometimes are not very great. Just know that in the long run, the relationships developed with players, fellow coaches, and even officials are worth it.

Hold off on turning in that letter of resignation. I’ll see you on the sidelines.

Jeff Dorschner is a Wisconsin-based athletic director and baseball coach. From an article appearing at SportsEngine.com. Published with permission.

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