I just finished watching the end of an incredibly exciting March Madness game between Notre Dame and Stephan F. Austin. In the last few minutes, SFA was up by 3 points and not giving up anything! The Fighting Irish indeed clawed their way back for one 2-point shot, and then, with a little more than one second on the clock, they tipped in a final shot to put them ahead with less than a second to go. SFA missed the buzzer-beater, and Irishmen everywhere jumped out of their seats.
I don't normally watch post-game interviews or coach's pep talks, but I was stranded on the treadmill at the gym, so I kept my eyes open. Head coach Mike Brey had an interesting look on his face as he addressed his Sweet-Sixteen-bound team. It was a look that I could tell his team didn't see all the time, but it was genuine nonetheless. I had seen this look myself from a high school softball coach.
It was a smile.
It took me a while to recognize it, maybe because in the past year, I saw Chip Kelly take the Eagles to a losing 6-9 record, and I saw the Phillies go through 3 managers in 3 years who gave up on the team only shortly after the fans did. As a fan from Philadelphia, I'm not used to seeing a lot of smiling coaches.
After Googling images of Mike Brey, I don't think anyone was used to seeing a lot of smiles from him either.
But that's how it goes in sports. When the game is intense, coaching is extreme. Why do they yell? Because, you know, they all yell.
Part of it is so they can be heard. Games get LOUD. But I have a feeling they would yell anyway. The adrenaline makes them raise their voices. They are focused on nothing but how to win the game. If those coaches could be out there on the field/court/diamond, they would be. They want to keep showing the players what to do. But at game time, they have to just trust that they have taught enough.
Then… the game is over. If the coach's team has pulled through, there is an huge amount of relief. It results in a smile.
Some say that God is your biggest cheerleader. But I think it is more accurate to consider Him like your coach. He has given you everything you need to succeed. (Hello, Holy Spirit!) He has even drafted for you the best player in the league! (Thank you, Jesus!) But He won't go on the field anymore, not since the days He walked with Adam, before sin.
Still, He calls to you from the sidelines. It's loud enough, but you may have trouble hearing it for two reasons:
1. Because the crowd noise drowns it out.
The people in the world are all saying different things, and all at the same time. That makes our world pretty noisy. Some of them might be yelling out advice. But the crowd doesn't know how you have been coached. They could be giving bad advice.
My oldest daughter had a soccer coach once who told the team not to listen to their parents while they were on the field, and instead to concentrate on her voice. She knew soccer, and also knew that we parents didn't. I'm sure it was hard for the girls to ignore their parents (… or maybe not!) but when they listened to the coach, they played better.
2. Because you are too focused on the game of life to listen.
Beyond the crowd noise is the noise in your own head. You try to remember every thing you did during practice. That's a good thing, but you only have a limited perspective. Formations on the field may require you to adjust your game plan. You can't always see the whole picture, but the coach can!
God is calling to you - telling you what to do - and whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear the voice behind you saying, "This is the way; walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21)
Are you listening for His coaching? Do you want to hear what He says, or do you want to do it your own way? Who knows more? The coach or the player? Who can see the bigger picture - the coach on the sidelines who has a full view of the defense, or the player on the line of scrimmage who might not be able to see over the guard?
How does He sound? Does He sound angry to you? Does that mean He's mad or even that you've done something wrong? Possibly, but more than likely, it's because He is so invested in what's going on, He's just trying to get you to hear. He wants you to win!
He's coaching you on to the end of the game. At the end of the game, nothing else can be done. Your game will end in one of two ways - you win or you lose - depending on which team you play for. If you have done a good job listening to your coach (this is assuming, of course, you are playing on His team, with Jesus!), you will hear at the end, "Well done."
The Bible doesn't say, but I totally believe you will see a smile on God's face, whatever that might look like. I can't even imagine, but then again, I haven't finished playing the game yet.
Tom Hanks tells us there's no crying I'm baseball, but I don't think we see a lot of smiling either. Not until the game is over. The celebration will be grand, and the rest will be sweet. I'm smiling already.
Before anyone attacks me for being anti-feminist here, I do agree that moms most CERTAINLY CAN do whatever coaching she would like. As a matter of fact, a lot of single moms don't have much choice, and I tip my hat to them.
But it's a lot harder for us.
I bit off more than I could chew by volunteering this year as a softball coach. I'm not even the head coach, mind you, but I now see why this is a Daddy job more than a Mommy job.
It's not the actual coaching that's hard. I love the sport, and have played more years of my life than I have not. I have 2 degrees in elementary education and experience teaching, so I'm not afraid of the kids, either.
I know the sport and I know kids, what could be more perfect, right?
That was your question if you are a man. If you're a woman, you probably already know the problem.
The problem is the same problem we have with everything else. It's One. More. Thing.
I see why the daughters of the only "Mom-coach" I ever had growing up never had their hair in pigtails. My daughter's hair was often a mess this season. More than once I brought the child to the game and asked the older sister of a teammate to do her hair for me. Because honestly? It was a huge success for me if I could get her in the car with her uniform and cleats on. (There were days I threw in the towel and had her do some of that IN the car. Because coaches have to be on time, no exceptions.)
Moms are the ones in charge of the hair, the uniform, and the shoes. Have you seen the dads who had to do the daughters' hair? You have, and you gave him grace. Moms don't get that grace. It's our job.
What we SHOULD be doing is: hair, clothes, shoes, HAND-OFF. Hand the child off to the dad so he can take it from there and teach them how to play.
You may have thought that since I am a stay-at-home mom, it would be much easier for me to pull this new position off. I thought so too. The problem is that the coaching doesn't happen during the day when the kids are at school and the hubby is at work. That would have made it much easier. Nope, games and practices all occur at the same time everything else happens - the very minute (sometimes before) that everyone gets home.
Dinner becomes the next issue. Moms must have a meal ready for everyone. Sometimes, we have to be at the field before our husbands are home from work. So dinner needs to be prepared to be eaten in shifts. We've eaten sometimes at 4:30. We are training our kids to be old people.
Again, how nice would it be to just feed them and hand them off?
Coaching means you are in charge of equipment. It's never light. In our league, we have to get out out bases and line the field. The bases are heavy. I'm not a weakling, but I can only carry one base at a time. Most men I see carry two. I'm the kind of person who will dislocate a shoulder to get more groceries in the house in one trip, so seeing the men juggle bases like that makes me envious.
Oh, and at the end of the game? We have to drag a metal grate around the field behind a riding mower. I managed to get away without having to drive that thing... until the last away game. After I learned how to get it moving, things were fine until it ran out of gas... at the bottom of the hill. I literally could not push it back to the top. At least I could stand and look pathetic until 2 dads from a neighboring game came over with pity and finished it up for me. That's right. Dads.
Yes, I am in need of your strength, men.
Speaking of strength, how about toughness? Dads are in charge of teaching kids to "tough it out." Moms are in charge of cuddling. What happens when kids get hurt on the field? The coach tells the player to "Suck it up and get back out there," right? Not if you're the mom.
There was one instance last week when my 7-year-old little girl, playing pitcher at the time, took a hard line drive to the shin. I ran right out to the mound and stopped. What now? I wanted to pick her up and carry her off the field, applying ice and doing all the other first aid I knew. But I had to get back in the field and finish coaching the team. It was my kid, so I couldn't hand her off to her mom for TLC, so I had to coach. "Aww, Sweetie, that was a tough one, huh? Doesn't hurt too badly, though, does it? I think you're okay to keep playing, what do you say?"
She sniffed away her tears, nodded, and we all clapped to commend her bravery. Thankfully, it really DIDN'T hurt too badly and didn't even leave a mark.
OK, so there definitely are advantages to having a mom as a coach. I had to teach one girl how to discreetly change her shirt in the plain light of day. Only a mom can do that. And you know my softball bag has everything in that Pinterest has taught me I would need to fight bugs and ticks. Also, when the young ones aren't standing in the right position, I can pick them up and just put them where they need to be.
Then of course, there are the hugs. Sadly, in this day, society won't let daddies hug other people's daughters. But they are still little girls. There may be no crying in baseball, but there's a little bit in softball, and the girls need a little TLC sometimes.
So, in retrospect, maybe I should re-title this post, "It's Hard for Moms to Coach, But Here's Why We're Still Going to Do It."
Because when my daughter asks, "Will you be there for me?" and I can say, "You bet," it's worth it.
Passion Under Grace,