My husband recently completed his twelfth season as a Class B boys basketball coach in North Dakota. He has had the pleasure of seeing some of his teams overachieve, and he has experienced the heartbreak of seeing teams not reach the goals that they worked hard for.
I am feeling a bit sentimental this year, because our third (and last) son just completed his high school basketball career. I have watched my husband coach all three of my sons. Maybe my sons will never have a coach that expects as much from them as their father did. However, I would challenge you to find a coach that cared as much, or felt their triumphs and heartbreaks as powerfully as he did. As you would find out if you asked any of my sons, they would not have it any other way.
For twelve seasons, I have become increasingly aware that as fans, we see a very small excerpt of what the whole season is comprised of. We sit in the bleachers deciding how the coaches should dole out playing time without knowing anything of the players’ off-season dedication, practice behavior, or locker room decorum. We aren’t there when the team goals are set. We aren’t there when the game plan for each particular team is determined.
Throughout the years, my husband has had numerous times when fans, parents, and players have kindly praised his coaching style and achievements. However, there have been a handful of times when I could swear that a spectator thought I was struck deaf and could not hear their negative comment OR they did not think I was struck deaf and seemingly did not care that I could hear their negative comment. I heard them. Unfortunately, I have had a difficult time forgetting them. I do not mention that in order to ask for even a small measure of sympathy. I mention it so that I can simply point out that there may be some things we do not realize as spectators.
For instance: the player that just got benched after they made an outside shot ignored the coach’s instructions in the previous timeout to work the ball inside. The player that is sitting on the bench even though they played well in the previous game missed practice, or did something divisive, or rolled his eyes after getting corrected at practice, or is ineligible because 3rd quarter grades just came out. The quick, scrappy guard that you think should be playing is outsized in this particular game and will most likely get an opportunity to succeed in an upcoming game that is more fast-paced and needs strong outside defenders. The player that just made three consecutive baskets gave up three consecutive shots on the defensive end. That is why he is sitting on the bench. Not because the coach “doesn’t like him.” I could go on with other types of scenarios, but suffice it to say, each team has different dynamics and each player has different skills to offer. We cannot possibly know all the factors that go into deciding the playing time, the type of defense the team is playing, or the offense that they will run in any given game. Keep in mind that most likely, if you and 9 people sharing the bleacher with you were asked how the playing time should be dispersed, or what type offense they should run, there would be 10 different opinions.
My husband holds all of his team members to a high standard, and he holds them accountable. He knows what they are capable of, and he does not just hope they come through. He expects it. Some people may call that ‘being demanding’. I call it being a coach that believes in his players. I also call it a gift that those players are blessed to experience.
My husband prays for and with his players and puts forth his best effort to coach the X’s and O’s, the ins and outs, and the highs and lows of basketball. However, as long as he continues to coach, the importance of that will never compare to the other lessons he teaches them; winning with dignity, losing with grace, being a man of integrity, being respectful and respectable, and being a teammate that genuinely cares about the whole team, just to name a few. There is so much more to being a basketball coach than what we see on the surface. Coaches are faced with countless decisions, and countless factors are considered in each decision that they make.
I am proud to be the wife of a successful class B basketball coach. He is successful if you look at his win-loss record, but that is not the success that I am most proud of. I am most proud of the life-lessons and the love that his teams have experienced through the years. That is what defines him as a successful coach.
Next time we sit in the stands or stand at the water cooler ready to vocally question the local high school coach, let us please remember that what we are about to present as factual information is actually an opinion based on only small part of the picture. May we please remember that high school coaches care about each and every athlete, and they are doing everything possible to set their teams up for success. Maybe that thought will prevent a careless opinion from being expressed. Maybe that thought will compel us to thank our local high school coach for the amount of time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears they invest in each and every athlete in their program. I have more that I could say, but I’ll stop there. I have some coaches to thank.