For those of us whose kids play youth hockey, we’re used to the response when we talk about how much time we spend at ice rinks. Basically, non-hockey parents think we’re crazy.
But, at least for our family, the commitment to a youth sport comes with the promise of coaches like Bob C.
Parenting is a demanding job and you’re more likely to do it well if you don’t go it alone. Youth sports has been one of the ways we connect to great adults who can help us raise our kids.
Milwaukee Winter Club, where our two hockey players compete, is full of dads (and some moms) who have lots of experience playing hockey. Bob was not one of those dads.
But what made Bob a good coach–what makes any coach who signs on to coach children “good”–is the joy they take in teaching children the life lessons that competitive sports can teach. Sportsmanship, teamwork, hard work, disappointment. The nearly seven months that most families commit to youth hockey means that the “fun” is no sugary sweet cotton candy version. When you win, you know you earned it. And when you lose, you know you gave it your best.
And with coaches like Bob, kids learn that they are valued for who they are and what they bring to the team. The joy Bob took in coaching his son and his son’s team mates was evident in his relationships with the kids. He was no polly-anna where people were concerned. While I never heard him say a negative thing about a child, he was always honest–and, it seemed, delighted by each kid’s quirks.
That perspective served him well in coaching my “charming” daughter in the net. I emailed him about a month before he died to say that he was one of the few coaches who could keep up with her “sense of humor.” He responded:
Tell L. I’m very proud of her. Tell her to always keep her beautiful smile. And tell her (if you feel it is appropriate) I always tell [my kids] when they can’t get the answer they need from family or friends — get it from their gut. I consider the gut the combination of heart, mind and soul and that combo will keep us sane and happy with our choices in life.
We’ve been fortunate–a lot of our kids’ coaches have been like Bob. That doesn’t mean we won’t miss him.