Sports are a wonderful way of making friendships.
Over my years of participating in sports either as player, coach, or parent, the people that I consider some of my closest friends I’ve met through my involvement in sports. To this day, my tightest circle of friends includes mostly those soccer teammates from my high school and college years.
As a player, you spend countless hours on a practice field or in game situations and you share those experiences with only a handful of people — your teammates. You sweat together, fight with each other, compete for positions and playing time against one another, and sometimes hate your coach together for what they’ve put you through.
As a coach, the rewards are many. The satisfaction you get when everything comes together and the players get the rewards for their hard work is like nothing else. Watching a player make an adjustment to their game or to correct a mistake that you’ve counseled them over warms your heart, even if you don’t get credit for it.
If you work with them long enough you get to watch your young players turn in to young adults. You watch your players turn from someone you’ve mentored to someone you consider a friend. One of my favorite things is to run in to an old player and see how they’re doing in college or to attend one of their weddings or child’s birthday party.
When I need help with either a sports-related problem or one in other parts of my life, sometimes the only people I feel comfortable talking to are other coaches that have shared similar experiences. We can share scouting reports, discuss player and parent issues, critique the recent performance of common referees, and share in each other’s success (when it’s not against “us”).
The relationships you make with parents through sports oftentimes turn into deeper friendships, attending each other’s holiday parties, going to other sporting events together, or even going with a whole group on vacation to the Outer Banks.
The amount of time that we all spend together when traveling to tournaments, sitting on the sidelines between games or even winding down by the hotel pool help us to identify similar qualities and interests in each other that help to form and strengthen those friendships.
As good as the friendships can be that you make through sports, there are also many friendships that have been soured or strained as a result of our involvement in sports.
When a player begins to think that his individual performance outweighs the importance of team chemistry, his teammates may hold their resentment for his newfound attitude against him both on and off the field. When a group of teammates feel that they are the only ones that can make a difference on the outcome and keep the play to themselves, the results can be devastating to the team.
There is plenty of opportunity for disagreement within a coaching staff that could lead to strained relationships. I can’t tell you how many times my assistant coaches and I have butted heads. If we didn’t have a solid base in our friendship and respect for each other’s opinions, our friendships and potential coaching relationships may have ended a long time ago.
Then there’s the whole experience of having to make cuts. I used to have a mentor in business that told me “I’ve made a lot of bad hires in my time, but never a bad firing.”
The same could be said for selecting the players for your team, except for the fact that you’re dealing with children and the effect your selection will have on their lives. The ever-present concern over the amount of playing time your child gets or the way the coach handles her in a difficult situation because of a mistake on the field can lead to unfriendly confrontations between coach and parent.
In a small community like ours, the effect it has on our relationships can be felt in many ways. We can run into each other at parties, at Wal-Mart, at church, or at school. Our kids will stay friends whether or not they are on the same team; it’s the adults that can carry the lasting effects of these experiences into their relationships.
It’s the friendships that endure through those times that matter the most. Peyton Manning was known for his competitiveness and fiery attitude on the field. When asked what he wanted people to remember about his career, he said, “I get asked a lot about my legacy. For me, it's being a good teammate, having the respect of my teammates, having the respect of the coaches and players. That's important to me.”
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When you a part of a team there is nothing more important than those relationships you build on the fields of battle.