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He was there.
Every practice, every game, no matter what, he was there.
He lived in the shadows of the POLITICAL PARENTING CROWD and avoided the normal “fake” friendships amongst the adults.
He was quite and reserved, yet loved and adored by all who knew him.
His charm was in his simplicity, his integrity, his honesty. He was genuine and kind, and despite living on the sidelines of the “Parenting AllStars”, he was the most liked amongst all the kids.
Even the ones whom never took much of a liking to me, adored MY FATHER. He’d tell them jokes or ask them silly questions that would calm their nerves in a flash.
They liked him because he paid attention to them. Real attention. Attention that they craved.
He was more interested in making them smile than he was in prepping them for their 8 year old all star performance. He never talked above them or around them. He spoke to them.
Instead of feedback on mistakes or chiming in with the loud moans of the vicarious crowd, he’d find ways to let every kid know that their small downfall was not the end of the world.
And despite being there, he refused to be involved. Coaching was something he left up to those with the appetite for navigating the political land mines of youth sports.
Until the day, where he had no choice.
The floor hockey coach (yes, floor hockey) was going on vacation and needed someone to step in. Summoned by guilt, my father accepted the offer.
It would be the one opportunity to see if he had been wrong. To see if he had been missing something all of these years.
I thought my father was trying to avoid political warfare, yet he went at it the way a matador provokes a bull.
Within 5 minutes of the game, all of the kids whom always play, were now sitting on the bench. Including me.
And all the kids whom seemingly singed up just to say they were on a team, were now running around the floor having the time of their lives.
The crowd reacted the way that a European soccer stadium would react if a player kicked a goal in his own net.
My father would never coach again.
I don’t remember the score of that game or if we won or lost. In fact, I don’t even remember if we EVER won or lost.
However, I do remember one thing that shapes me to this day. I remember my fathers courage. His willingness to be exiled by the parents in order to provide 30 minutes of happiness to a child.
I learned about empathy that day. I learned about sympathy. I learned that competitiveness is only one small ingredient that should be mixed into a child’s experience – at that age.
They also need encouragement. They need support. They need to find their confidence and need their coaches to help them find it. They need to laugh. They need to have fun. They need to learn how to support and encourage one another.
They deserve a chance to learn the skills of the game and the principles that can be applied beyond the sport. They deserve to be given direction and treated with patience.
My father concluded that day that coaching was surely not for him.
I know to this day that he was the best coach that I have ever had.
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