3 Life Lessons A Mom Learned As A Football Coach

flag football

Yup, you read that right. I’m a mom. And a football coach. Oh, not because I thought the bonding experience with my son would be awesome (though it is)…not because I grew up a tomboy and have always loved football (though that’s true)…but because I. Didn’t. Say. NO!!! When I signed my son up for the season several weeks ago, I recall a spot on the online registration page that asked something like “Would you be interested in helping out with the team if necessary?”

“Well of course!” I thought…I could bring snacks and drinks, I could carpool some of the other kids, whatever! I love helping others, and while I generally don’t have an issue with saying no, there’s that small part of me that thinks I can do it all.

LESSON ONE: Understand what you’re getting yourself into.
Had I not been so quick to make assumptions, I might have thought twice about what “helping out” meant in this particular case. Have you ever dated someone for a few months, and suddenly you realized that this person was someone you never would have chosen for yourself? That the person looked good “on paper” (a good job, similar background as you, educated, etc.), but once the “magic” of new-ness wore off and you got to see beneath the shiny exterior, it was someone that you just didn’t connect with? I didn’t understand what I was about to get myself into.

About 3 days before the football season began, the roster was e-mailed to me. Listed under “coach” was just one last name…MY last name. What are the odds that someone else out there has the same last name (with a somewhat uncommon spelling), and happens to be coaching my son’s team?

Not good, apparently…the odds weren’t good, as I would soon find out.

Later that day I got a call from the league coordinator, thanking me for volunteering to coach, because, as he put it “no other parents stepped up to do it”. Uhhhhh, ok. A bit shell-shocked, I listened to him continue to talk, reassuring me that this would be a great experience! A fun thing for the kids! Something my son and I would remember always! I briefly paused his desperate-sounding enthusiasm to ask if there were any other female coaches. “Well, no…”, and confirmed that if I pulled out now, there would be no coach for the team.

Gulp.

LESSON TWO: It’s okay to say no.
When my son was in kindergarten, I was “Class Mom”, the liaison between the teacher and parents, party coordinator, and part of the school fundraising committee. I recall a conversation at that time with a mom of older kids, in which the topic of volunteering arose. She laughed, and said simply, “You’ll learn”.  She was right. The more I did, the more I was asked to help. And I found that when I committed to too much, other things in my life suffered: I fed my son more fast food rather than cooking at home, the house was messier, and I wasn’t speaking with or doing as much with friends. Why didn’t I just say “no”?

Turns out that not only was I the only female coach, I was the only coach who didn’t have an assistant. So I would be all on my own. Again…gulp. I mustered up every bit of (fake) confidence I had, and called each parent, introducing myself, asking about their kids, and ever-so-subtly asking if there were any dads interested in helping me out. Turns out that coaching is quite a time commitment, and there wasn’t one dad who wanted to commit to the whole season. Son of a %$#*@, what did I get myself into?!

LESSON THREE: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Sometimes my pride gets in the way, or more accurately, the perfectionist in my head tells me that no one can do the job that needs to be done quite like I would. And I end up taking on more than I can handle. I get overwhelmed, I get overworked, I get over-under-upside-down (yeah, I don’t know exactly what that means either…but it sure sounded good in my head…maybe I’ve been listening to too much disco…). I could have easily been honest with the parents and said that I wasn’t confident that I would do their kids a service by being the sole coach. Had I been more persistent with my efforts, I could have at least acquired an assistant coach.

Practice day. Now, my friends, I am certified to teach children, and I have been teaching children for over a decade. I have never been more nervous to teach (coach) than I was on that day. What if the parents wouldn’t take me seriously? What if the kids LAUGHED at me?! The parents were friendly, and seemed supportive. The kids were receptive and eager to learn. As practice began, I soon realized that it was more difficult than I thought it would be. Most kids had never played before, while a couple had experience. I made them team captains, which made my job easier…they helped teach the others what they had learned themselves. I demonstrated some techniques that even the experienced kids hadn’t known before, and I gained a bit more confidence. We ran through some drills, and ended practice with a loud yell of “1-2-3-COWBOYS!”

And though I felt like “Hey, I may just be able to pull this off!”, I knew that I had to seek some help, or I would regret it. I honed in on the first dad to make eye contact with me. There was no way I would take “no” for an answer. I tried to keep my approach casual, so that he wouldn’t sense the desperation behind my smile…he took the bait, and gave me a firm “maybe”. “Good enough…I can break him down by e-mail”, I thought.

As luck would have it, he e-mailed me before I could craft my convincing e-mailed plea, saying that he’d be happy to assist me. YES! As our first game draws nearer, the anticipation is making me both excited and terrified. Since I am trained to help others positively re-frame negative thoughts, I find myself imagining positive outcomes. And, since I love to set lofty goals, I find myself imagining taking this team all the way to the state championship…and then I remember two things: one, coaching is HARD, and two, it doesn’t really matter if we’re the “best”. What matters is that the kids learn what it means to be part of a team, gain some new skills, benefit from the physical fitness aspect of the game, and have fun doing it. But still…getting a trophy sure would be a darn good ending to the story, wouldn’t it?!

P.S. Thanks to Jason for stepping up! 1-2-3-Cowboys! :-)