Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Letter To My Former Coaches

Should I have titled this post An Open Letter To My Former Coaches, as open letters seem to be all the rage these days? I've actually had this post in mind for a while now - it came to me in the middle of club volleyball season - but I'm just now getting around to putting pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard. But the timing works out, as we are just days away from the start of the high school volleyball season. The months during which so many of my favorite high school memories were made. And I absolutely love having the opportunity to still be involved with the sport, this time, from the other side.

Coaching - even for as few years as I have done it - has given me such a feeling of appreciation for all the coaches I've had along the way. From soccer to teeball to swimming to basketball to track to a short stint with golf and gymnastics, and finally, volleyball, I've had some pretty incredible coaches along the way, so this one goes out to you guys.

Thank you for your time. This is the biggest one, in my opinion. You thought you gave a lot of time as a player, well, that's only a fraction of the time a coach gives. And I look at my head coach and I see even how much more time she dedicates to the sport and the development of her athletes. But not only does a coach have to give the time that is reserved for practice and games, but there's the time spent planning practice and workouts and thinking up lineups and maybe some team bonding activities. And BPal took the time to write us gameday notes ... every single gameday. And I still have almost all of them tucked away in a binder. And Coach A took the time to put together the most badass (sorry, this is really the only way to describe them) scouting reports, so we were more than ready to face our opponents. And while I obviously don't have a family to come home to and care for - though I would argue that taking care of a puppy is fairly similar - that doesn't mean I'm not still giving my time. I've missed out on trips with my best friends because of a Saturday tournament. I've missed out on things simply because I come home from practice or a game and pass out on my couch, and nothing in me wants to shower and attempt to look presentable or be social. I've had to readjust my running schedule - running nine or ten miles on a Saturday night because I was coaching a tournament all day in Alvin. And all of that is okay because I love being a coach. I've realized how much time and energy goes into being a coach, and I'm glad each one of you chose to give me that time.

Thank you for never letting me settle for less than my best. I can remember this practice so vividly, my senior year of playoffs, the practice just before the start of the regional tournament. I was worn down to the ground as I worked on blocking (a skill 5'5" me definitely needed to practice), and after what I thought was a particularly good round, I thought for sure I had earned a break. Maybe we could move onto something else. I turned back to my coach and all she said was, "Okay, again. This time, focus on doing it this way." Because she knew I could always be better than what I thought was my best.

Thank you for teaching me the value of sportsmanship. Whether it was to be a humble winner or a gracious loser (and trust me, this is not easy when you lose to Cinco Ranch - for the third time that year - in the regional finals), the expectations always remained the same. I was taught never to argue with the referees, as they truly have the hardest job of all. I will admit that I forget that sometimes. I was taught to shake the hands of the officials at the end of each match, a practice I take with me to this day, and one I try to pass along to my girls. Much like it is with the President of the United States, someone is always mad at the official. But we couldn't play the game without them.

Thank you for really showing me that hard work always beats talent. Maybe not always in the final score, but absolutely in the long run. When I could not do one more second of wall sits, and I thought about just staying on the ground during the next burpee, thanks for pushing me and teaching me the value of working hard and pushing through, even when it hurts. Maybe that was because we would start all over if someone quit, but hey, it worked all the same. You taught me that you could have the most talented group of players in the world, but if they chose to rest on that talent instead of work hard to get better, they'll never find success. Those who work hard find success.

Thank you for caring for me beyond just being another player to pass through the program. You were someone I could talk to - heck, many of you I still talk to - when I had a problem (aka almost getting a B in art class). You took the time to get to know my family and what else was important to me and you cared about my development, not only as a player, but as a person.

Thank you for continuing to make the sport FUN. So many athletes lose that along the way with the Friday night practices and the tournaments every weekend and the extra conditioning and the private lessons and so on and so forth. And while it was lots and lots and lots of hard work, I rarely lost sight of the little girl who fell in love with the game(s) and the thrill of competition and the adrenaline rush that comes with an intense, never-ending rally when the opposing team has match point. 

You taught me the value of timeliness, you wanted each and every one of your players to succeed, not just on the court, but off of it, as well. You taught me how to be driven and determined and how to be obedient and that it's okay to be a quiet leader. And each one of these "lessons" that I have learned are applicable in all aspects of my life. And as I reflect on the incredible coaches that I've had, I realize how much of an impact each one of them had on my life. And I hope I carry a little bit of each one of them within me as long as I hold the title of "Coach".

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