I came across a post on Facebook from my former collegiate teammate and current assistant softball coach at Columbia College in South Carolina, Tatjana Matthews, that caught my eye this morning. It was blog post by Stacie Mahoe and here’s the link to check it out (http://staciemahoe.com/2013/07/04/babying-athletes/). She had me at “Stop Babying…”
Since I’ve made my transition from a softball player to a coach, I’ve found the most difficult this is coaching the athlete of today. I’ve ask a few of my former coaches as well as my coach colleagues about how they feel about this generation. I’ve uttered the words that “they don’t make them like they used to anymore,” which makes me sound older than I am. It was only seven years ago when I was a high school senior, about to enter my college career. When the older coaches explain their frustrations with the youth of today, they say they will never change or let it affect their coaching style, they might just not stick around for too much longer. This is sad because every one of the coaches I have approached with this question is very good at what they do and bring a lot to the table. I would have to have a great coach leave the game because of the mentality of the athletes and parents taking away his or her love of the game. This is very sad and disheartening coming back into all of this, especially as a new coach.
I had started playing softball at an early age and my dad was my first coach. One thing I distinctly remembered him telling me early on was that he would never favor me because I was his daughter or give me special treatment. I obeyed this to the point that some people who never even guess that he was my dad other than the fact that we looked like each other. I kept my distance and never went to him when things weren’t going my way. I was a pretty quiet and humble kid back then too so I was not the troublemaker only child. My upbringing wasn’t particularly hard – I did what was asked of me, I would get rewards, I didn’t stir up trouble, I had a good foundation. Even though I was an only child and I am stereo-typically supposed to be spoiled and act like God’s gift on earth, I did everything in my power to not act like that because of my father instilling me to “always be humble.” My parents, particularly my father coached me as a young girl on and off the field to help form me into the woman I am today.
I am not a parent and I’m not telling anyone how to be a parent. I do ask the question of parents – Why wouldn’t you teach/coach them to learn from their mistakes with appropriate consequences? Isn’t something they stress in the parenting books STRUCTURE? I don’t know, maybe I’m reinventing with wheel with this, but is anyone seeing a connection to parenting and coaching. So I’ll give the these “soft” parents the benefit of the doubt they were were never athletes so they can’t relate to the parallel and digress. My challenge as a new coach is to earn the respect of the parents and athletes while trying to instill the drive and competitiveness that once was. Getting attitudes in check and still keeping my professional integrity is one of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to face season after season so far. It doesn’t help that I look so young either…It was easier when you could just hit the field and play.