By Shiela K. Haynes
Coaches are among the most sacrificial people I have ever known. They work incredible hours for an income that covers the bills but will never make them wealthy. They take care of the student athletes under their supervision. Not just the physical development, but the whole person including emotional health and well-being. Sometimes the list includes providing meals and clothing for students who otherwise might go without. Quite often, the coach pulls money out of his or her own pocket to cover.
Yes, they love the sports they coach. But most importantly, they love the kids they coach.
I am incredibly blessed to know each of our Winnsboro coaches. And I am here to tell you it is an excellent bunch. Are they interested in winning games? Absolutely. But more importantly they are fully engaged in building our next generation into solid citizens and helping each athlete in their care to develop and secure future goals.
I know what I am talking about here. I am standing on the sidelines, sitting along courtside, and crouched in the dugout week in and week out. I am often there for practices as well as game days. I hear what young people say to each other and I hear what coaches say to them. I witness interactions that absolutely bless my heart.
A football player who didn’t make an important reception came back to the sideline. He was overwhelmed by his failure and shedding some tears over it. The coach came to him there and lifted him up. I heard the words, “You are a good athlete. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
I see the way our seniors lead. That doesn’t happen through some kind of magical osmosis. They learned that from their coaches. I hear the way our players treat opponents with respect. Even the opponents who don’t deserve it. That’s coaching.
I saw a player strike out recently and saw him throw a batting helmet in frustration. I heard the coach immediately and unequivocally tell him that is not acceptable and that he would pull him right off the field. And the athlete believed it because what the coaches say is trustworthy. Consistency matters. The expectations are well-defined, and coaches follow through.
What our athletes are getting from those coaches is a steady diet of encouragement. For all of them. Not just the standouts. I see which athletes are good teammates, and which ones work hard in practice and in a game. I see which players work to earn their spot. It’s much more than simply being athletic. And it is not about favoritism.
For a lot of athletes, a coach is just that. Someone to teach them the ins and outs of a sport and push them through the training necessary to be successful. But for many, a coach is a surrogate parent, an encourager, a tutor, a helping hand, a taxi service, and more. The families of coaches also deserve our respect because they sacrifice as well.
I believe there are a great many student athletes who found a way to be successful in life because of a coach. And I nod my head in respect for the work they do.