SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: Coaching: to nurture or berate


I snickered, shrugged it off and continued to play my indoor soccer game as the dad in the stands became more livid. I always had a thick skull and supportive parents so I was not that concerned.

Later that day though, I worried to myself for my friend, but it was a 9-year-old worry, more general concern rather than concern about any one thing in particular. He seemed fine; he was the best player on our team after all, and continued to be for the next 10 years.

Flash forward a few years now. I was about 12, on basically the same soccer team, minus a few kids who left because they lost interest, changed sports, couldn't afford it or they did not like what was in their/our immediate future, a change that shrunk my team even more: My friend's dad was now our coach.

We lost about five players and had a particularly rough season. This hotheaded dad never played in a soccer league until he was over 30, had no relevant experience teaching youth soccer and had a penchant for living through his son, basically the prototype for how to make kids lose interest fast. Thankfully he was "too busy" the next season.

At 12, I had a revelation of sorts. I asked myself, "Is having that kind of dad worth being the best player on the team?"

I came up with my answer that has basically led me to my youth staff job at the YMCA today: an emphatic "No!"

At 12 I felt that I became, in a way, more mature than a successful 48-year-old dad. Reflecting at 25 years old now, I realize I was in the sports arena at least.

As a kid, one piece of knowledge I picked up from other kids' parents is that screaming and yelling can motivate and put a kid in the same status on a team as unconditional love and support can, but oftentimes with the former seeing greater results faster.

When coaching a team or a child the question one should ask is not "how good will this kid be at sports after I'm done," but, "where will this kid's entire life be after I'm done."

At the YMCA we realize that a game is not life but rather that sports in whole is a microcosm of life. How we teach and mold these children in competition can directly correspond with how they act in any situation in life.

They can yell and scream to get their way or they can use love and compassion to achieve a much better result.

Upcoming programming at the Y includes parent-child sports, which will provide a structure to combine a parent's influence with the nurturing support of the Y staff.

Jim Ewers is a BMAC AmeriCorps member who serves at the YMCA as the youth activities specialist. He graduated from Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, in 2009 with a bachelor of arts in religion while playing soccer all four years.


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