The Grace of Coaching

David Quo thinks that he was an ass at his kid’s soccer game. Why? Because his kid is far from becoming the next David Beckham, the kid doesn’t always listen to the coach and he thinks he did a good job when he kicks the ball into his own net.

And all that annoys David–who’s far from an athlete himself.

But I share the following viewpoint with him:

I HATE the coddling of America’s youth. I HATE everyone always been told that everything is terrific no matter how much it sucks. I HATE that we lead the world in self esteem and suck at math and reading. I HATE soccer games that don’t keep score. I HATE participation ribbons. Now I’m mad at our culture too.

I REALLY want to say, ”Well buddy, you’re trying and that’s AWESOME. But part of trying is listening to the coach. Why don’t you try that too?” I want to give him a hug and tell him how much I love him and how great he is actually doing at this, his first game of any sort. I really do want to say those things. But I don’t. I just sit there with the staggering knowledge I just told him he did badly.

I used to coach kids at a summer came. I would add that some of these kids were so afraid of the ball that they’d run away from a ROLLING ball. The key is getting them to believe that you aren’t giving up on them–but also (and more important) to not praise them when they don’t get it right.

Some examples:
“Good try but how about this way?” “Look, here’s what you’re doing wrong–not THAT way, it’s THIS way–now you try! Nope, try again. Good job!”

None of those voices can be in a raised tone. In fact they should be hushed tones mostly, with an added “You can do it, I know you can.”

One of the most awesome moments of my life was when a 6 year old afraid-of-the-ball-for-far-too-long shot his first basket. It was grandma moses style and it took him 20 attempts—but it was just the two of us and watching Mark Kissel’s face light up was worth every second of hard work. I remember him and his smile and how I held him over my head like the Stanley Cup and we ran around the gym together and grabbed a snack right after that basket.

Wanna know what happened next? He wanted to go practice some more. And he made 7 more baskets.

Kids want to get it right and improve their skill and they want mentors and coaches who guide them firmly and not just lie to their faces and tell them that they are great when they know they suck. The key is gentle firmness as well as patience. Instruction doesn’t have to be angry or browbeating. But it also doesn’t have to be superficial.

Not every kid deserves a trophy or a ribbon. But what every kid deserves is the respect of a coach who takes the time to make sure that they are being instructed properly and that they believe in them. Even when kids lose (I cried hard after that first little league loss—we lost 27-0. You’d think I would have caught on after the 3rd inning when we were down 13-0.) they need to have the support of a coach–and their parents. “It’s OK to lose. We all lose. Indeed we can’t win them all. We’re gonna lose again. They key is doing your best and pushing yourself to do better next time.”

Those were the words of Tom McKineley, my first little league coach.

And they are indeed words to live by that I have not forgotten for nearly 40 years now.

Now go find a kid and have a catch. And make sure he doesn’t throw like a girl.

And make sure she doesn’t either.

Banning Ice Cream From Brooklyn Parks

So a delighful rant is on Jezebel today that I really enjoyed. It seems a bunch of mothers in Brooklyn’s posh Park Slope are banning together to oust ice cream vendors from their local park. Now it’s not because they don’t want their kids to get fat, rather, it’s because they don’t want to say “no” to them. Imagine that.

Cassie Murdoch of begins her rant with this eloquence:

Oh, good god. Yes, let’s ban the sale of ice cream within 100 yards of schools and playgrounds. You are seriously furious that someone is trying to make a living in your vicinity? Well, I live in Park Slope, and I am furious that you bring your children into the the nail salon while I am trying to enjoy the yearly manicure I splurge on in peace, and I am furious that your child regularly runs into my feet with his scooter. But I do not try to ban your child from my sight. Why? Mostly because I am too lazy to get into that kind of legal battle. But also because I am an adult whose parents taught me that the entire world does not revolve around me. They taught me that I will not always be completely happy; that I sometimes need to wait for things I want or not get them at all; and that other people have just as much of a right to do what they want in this world as I do. And you know what? I cried a lot when I was young because these lessons pissed me off. And my parents were annoyed by my crying, but they dealt with it because they knew that in the end it was better for me to cry for five minutes than to grow up to be a complete asshole. It’s called parenting, and it’s hard work, whether there’s ice cream involved or not.

And as for the point that another made about kids becoming diabetic and/or obese, Murdoch has even more advice:

First of all, if occasionally eating ice cream in the park gave you diabetes, most of us would have died before the age of ten, but also, she is aware that if her kids aren’t begging her for ice cream, they’re going to be begging her for some other thing—even if it’s something sad like the kale chips she brought to the park in her bag. It’s what kids do: they needle, they whine, they constantly try to get whatever they can. And it’s your job to deny them, again and again, until they grow up to be people who the rest of us can tolerate being around. It’s also your job to give them ice cream once in a while so they don’t hate you for depriving them of all joy in life.

Entitlement starts young these days because parents don’t have the marbles to say no to their kids. And I realize that kids can be a pain and that they whine and drive you crazy. My dog barks until I give him a treat every time I eat and I usually just give him a kong to get him out of whatever hair I have left in my head. But sometimes I ignore him as well. He’s trained to know that if he wants food he has to be submissive. Most of the time Haze the Dog is better behaved than most children I encounter and even a few entitled college students I meet as well (but only a few–most college students want limits and guidance).

There are no bad kids, there are just bad parents and worse teachers who tolerate the parents’ behavior.

A Child on Marriage

My friends Marcy and Dan Zicari weighed in yesterday via facebook on the “How to Stay Married” post yesterday. You can’t make this stuff up:

Marcy was reading my post and her son, Laurence comes in and looks over her shoulder.

“Wow! How to stay married.” he offered.

“Yes. It’s not easy, you know, Laurence.”

“Yeah! Especially with Dad!”


Apologies to Dan in advance and continued prayers for the family and their new adventures across the pond. You are missed.