Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mrs Coach

The Mrs. Coach's Playbook

A playbook is a tool used by coaches to make a game plan. It is a manual that hopefully leads to success. A manuscript crammed with strategies to help a team achieve their common goal.

This is my playbook for moms.

This is not the usual organizational cheat sheet describing how to make our very busy schedules feasible, albeit being a mom of eleven I must say I have mastered quite a few aspects of domestic engineering

Nor is this a guide advising how to be the best "team mom", even though I have clocked countless hours running the concession stand, holding fundraisers, arranging carpools and planning banquets.

As bizarre as it may seem, I would like to offer guidance in the area where I have failed miserably. It is my disastrous mistakes I would like to share in the hopes of assisting all moms who are married to the coach.

"Learn from your mistakes" - Joseph Cannon, Santa Clara University soccer goalkeeper.

This is my game plan for Mrs. Coaches. This is a manual to help moms support and safeguard their coach and player during the exciting, rewarding and sometimes stressful experience participating in youth sports.

Being quite the connoisseur of Mrs. Coach's mistakes I now understand what is required in this role that is inherited by marriage. Coaching is a great opportunity for our husbands to make a difference. I consider it one of the most admirable commitments to undertake. It is an obligation that can be very time consuming and mentally draining. I was so proud of my husband when he first volunteered to coach our oldest son's t-ball team 13 years ago.

My husband was very knowledgeable of baseball and our son was a natural at the game. I however was not as prepared. I was so busy dreaming of all the wonderful memories my coach and player would be creating and their strong bond that would build to even think I had any responsibilities in this mission. I had no idea of the hazards that lay ahead which could contaminate my coach. What a rookie!

In just a few seasons my players' skill quickly excelled. My coach's intensity however, simultaneously became rapidly exaggerated. My coach started taking the games much too seriously. He began yelling at his players for not measuring up to his inflated expectations, especially my player. He often joked around with the players after an outburst as if to soften the blow but I felt the damage had already been done. I was immediately worried but hesitated to voice my concerns. I wasn't sure if I would be interfering. I wondered if this was just a tactic in coaching, perhaps only a temporary approach. I was uncertain if this might simply be a guy thing that I didn't understand and would have to get used to. To try justifying my reservations I would convince myself that by restraining my instincts I was actually preserving my players integrity. I didn't want to subject him to the dreaded label of "mama's boy".

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." - John Wooden UCLA, basketball coach.

What was I thinking!! This rationalization was completely out of character. I am not an interfering mom! I consider myself a very dedicated mother. I'm usually the referee on the playground, the peacemaker on the field trips and the cheerleader on the bleachers. I have always had an unbearable struggle just standing by and see a child discouraged or embarrassed, never mind seeing one cry.

I would never allow another man coaching to speak harsh words, cast disappointing glares or cause the fall of even one tear on my players face. Why was I permitting my husband to provoke these reactions?

This was not just a guy's thing. My son was not a mama's boy! I could not just quietly sit on the bleachers and watch my player's confidence gradually diminish from game to game.

"Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it." - Lou
Holtz University of North Carolina, football coach.

This playbook can be applied to any sport your husband coaches my reference however is baseball. I've chosen baseball because I absolutely love the game but regrettably it was the sport that led to the demise of my vocation as Mrs. Coach.

"Courage is not the absence of fear but simply moving with dignity despite that fear." - Pat Riley, L.A. Lakers basketball coach.

Before I offer my assembled approach to successfully supporting your coach I need to briefly share the extreme events that lead to the relinquishing of my failed undertaking.

It was during my oldest son's last year of Babe Ruth. At this point my coach was out of control. We didn't see eye to eye on anything that had to do with baseball. We rode in separate cars to the games and did not speak one word to each other at the field. I had to bring my iPod to every game to dilute my coach's hollering.

In spite of the immense tension I still truly adored going to the games to watch my player. He was the catcher and somehow managed to always enjoy himself. He continually joked around with the umpire, called meetings on the mound to encourage his infield and often would shoot the crap with the batter. His smile was beautiful!

After this particular game I drove up to the dugout to pick up my player. I loved when he rode home with me. The two of us would give our own take on how the game went as if his dad wasn't even the coach. Play by play we would talk about what worked, what didn't work and what was funny. This was my quick private opportunity to make sure he was fairing well despite his dad. Unfortunately it was very obvious before my player had even got in the car that his dad had completely defeated him.

As the after game traffic began to recede I caught a glimpse of my son and my heart completely broke. His coach had been screaming at him for what appeared to be quite awhile right in the middle of the parking lot. My coach was yelling so loud and so close to my player I could see spit bouncing of his hat. I absolutely snapped. I had never seen my son's head hanging so low. I'm amazed how he even saw the car pull up.

My player just hopped in and sat in the back seat alone. I turned around to ask what all that was about and he just stared out the window, wiping tears away and said "nothing new".

That was the final draw. I'm still not sure what ultimately made me crack. That certainly was not the first time my player cried because of his coach. For some reason every tear that I saw fall on my son's face through that rear view mirror burned massive holes in my heart.

"When you come to the fork in the road, take it." - Yogi Berra, New York Yankees baseball coach.

When we arrived home I calmly asked my player for his uniform, as if I was going to wash it. I then collected all the extra uniforms from the garage along with my player's equipment and hid everything. When my coach walked through the door I firmly said "He is not playing for you anymore."

My coached just laughed at me and walked away. He soon realized that I had indeed hid everything and flipped out. He stormed into the living room and interrogated my son as to what exactly what was said that made him so upset.

With trepidation I eavesdropped to my son's response. I was so afraid my player was going to come to me and say "It will be OK Mom, I just want to play" I tried to prepare myself to stand my ground and tell him it was not o.k.

To my elated surprise however I heard my player say "I don't want to play for you anymore Dad." His coach absolutely lost it. My husband yelled at me "See what you have done!" He kept asking our player what it was that he had said that bothered him that much. With his voice drowning in tears my son said, "It's the way you look at me Dad. It hurts".

I was so proud of my son. It was almost as if he didn't even know he had a choice or say in this matter. All those years my player had felt trapped with no options but to just play through the pain.

The following day in school my player never gave the impression that his mom had pulled him from the team. With confidence my son announced to his friends that he had decided not to play for his dad anymore.

"Confidence is contagious, so isn't lack of confidence." - Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers, football coach.

Although my player made the right choice, it is a terrible choice that no son should have to make. A few weeks after my son retired from his dad's team, the league's All Star coach called my player and asked him to be on the team, even though he hadn't finished the season. My son had a great time.

"Either you love your player or you get out of coaching" - Bobby Dodd Georgia Tech, football coach.

Of course all of our husbands love their sons. That is what inspired them to coach in the first place. They are truly proud of their boys and want the best for them. Yet along the way some coaches change.

Since all my children are athletes, I have been watching youth sports for over a decade in just about every type of venue. I've been able to rank most coaching styles into two categories. These two clusters are not arranged by sport, age or background. The two types of coaches are strictly based on manner, one being a stand up coach and the other a stressed out coach.

Successful coaching requires an extreme investment of time and dedication. There are many men who are able to remain outstanding role models while undertaking this demanding task. There are those however who become consumed with competition and show overwhelming signs of stress. These stressed coaches damagingly begin to put an excessive amount of expectations of their teams especially their sons.

I believe there are ways to offer support regardless of what degree of stress your coach is troubled with. With my three staged specific game plans you can either help your husband remain a stand up coach or support those who are beginning to show indications of stress. These remedies can even help assist those coaches, similar to mine, whose reasoning has been extremely impaired by the accumulation of stress.

"Coaching is a profession of love. You can't coach people unless you love them." - Eddie Robinson Gambling State University, football coach.

Stress on the field, court or ice doesn't seem to discriminate among the coaches it infects. Age, education, careers, wealth or family size does not play a part as to who is susceptible. The contamination of competition can easily and quickly ruin what appears to be the best of men My first stage in this game plan is to immunize our stand up coaches and take action to reinforce their integrity. We need to preserve every aspect of your coach's enjoyment of the game and spending time with his player.

While immunizing it helps to be a very persuasive Mrs. Coach. It is crucial to learn to love the game your coach and player are devoted to. Being able to appreciate both of their skills will help us understand their hopes and concerns. We need to accentuate all of our coach's efforts and point out what a great influence his is. Mention how his players look up to him, smile at him, and admire him. Focus on the progress and improvement of each player and the camaraderie of the team that he has established. Tell your coach of the awesome atmosphere he creates for the players and how safe they feel around him.

An effective approach in helping your coach keep his priorities in order is by inviting teammates over your house. Initiate one on one friendship with players and your son. This will allow the opportunity for your coach to get to know the boys off the field. These young boys will become endearing to your coach and not just names on his roster

If you are married to a stand up coach, congratulations! By encouraging his admirable efforts your family as well as your league will truly continue benefit. Just by being aware of the mired of ailments that coaches are susceptible you will be able to shield your wonderful guy and he will find this venture very rewarding.

"Condition comes from hard work during practice and proper mental/moral conduct between practices." John Wooden, UCLA basketball coach.

Some of you Mrs. Coaches may be pleasantly reminiscing right now back to those good old days when your husband was definitely a stand up coach. Many of you perhaps are torn thinking that your coach has had a few slights but you remain confident that it is not a real problem. In the three measures of stressed husbands I feel that it is the coaches that have just begun to show signs of stress that are most vulnerable. In this second stage of the game our goal is to detoxify your coach of any indication of inappropriate intensity. It is this type of coach that is most subjected to the influences of those around him. Any coach of a winning team might appear successful and can unfortunately begin to shape our coaches. Get familiar with the stand up coaches in your league and become friendly with their wives. You might even pursue plans to go out with them as couples.

It is important to keep in mind that you are not being secretly controlling or manipulative. This is not meant to undermine your husband's ability to make his own decisions. He would much rather vent and discuss coaching with another coach rather than you. I am simply suggesting that you make it easy for him so that the other coaches he hangs out with stand up guys.

There will be times thankfully that your coach will want to talk about his team with you. Be prepared! Learn the rules, the language, and the concepts. Why would he take your opinion seriously if you don't know what you are talking about? Make sure your comments are smart and helpful. Don't come straight out and tell him how to coach his team, merely be capable to hold your own in a conversation. Compliment your coaches with all his good and fair decisions. Take into account that it would be wise to try to avoid using the words sweet, nice and cute.

Speaking of cute, it is also constructive to look into the professional team in your area. Read the newspaper and watch the news to get familiar with the players and standings. Watch a few games with your coach and player love. Never mention how handsome any of the players are until you are with your girlfriends. Sharing the interest in the sport that your coach and player will make the games even more enjoyable for you and place you in a better position to support your coach.

"Over coaching is the worst thing you could do to a player." - Dean Smith University North Carolina, basketball coach.

If you find that your husband has unfortunately completely succumb to the pressures of coaching the most effective way to support him is the third stage, rehabilitation. This may seem like an exaggerated term to use in this context however according to Webster's Dictionary the definition is 'to help someone return to normal life'. Isn't this exactly what we wish for our stressed out coach?

When it may seem too late to immunize your coach and the detoxifying methods wouldn't be effective because communication has become so difficult, rehab can help reverse the residue stains of intensity. Especially when healthy conversation is impossible it is now time to call in the pros.

I am not referring to professional counseling (your coach would certainly not appreciate that) I'm suggesting to call on the professional coaches. Do a little investigating and find ones that your coach could relate to. There are many great ones that I'm confident your coach could find things in common and who he would admire. Purchase a few book or DVDs as gifts for your coach on these stand up men. Weather it be of the college level or professional league your coach will take pride in implementing these gentlemen's successful styles into their own game. You might be able to even gently contrast these stand up legends with some stressed out coaches in your division or in your league. Let your coach be the one however to acknowledge the difference and take it upon himself to disagree and condone the senseless behavior. He is a good man and will want to disassociate himself with that type of embarrassing behavior.

Be persistent yet patient with our coach. Continue to find third party sources that can help him realize the errors of his ways. Even though communication may be poor between you and your coach, with healing efforts initiated you don't want to have a useless argument cause a set back in progress. At this stage of the game you need to be extremely careful and choose your arguments. There is no need to completely ignore his outbursts. If a predicament arises that you disagree with make sure you have very good reason. Try not to nit pick about minor details and focus on the larger issues at hand. Collect your thoughts and refer to the incident with as much proof and detailed evidence possible. Don't just throw accusations blindly at your coach. Be specific and to the point. Try not to leave any room for your coach to evade the circumstance. My coach was an expert at dodging the issue at hand.

My coach used to try to construe the root of the dilemma was my fault. He believed I just exaggerated everything and blew it all out of proportion. It was unbelievably maddening. Our dialogue became so dysfunctional he decided to completely ignore me. This was so hurtful because as I had said before I did love the game and I legitimately knew all the ins and outs of baseball. Some of my most comforting memories as a little girl was watching the Red Sox with my Dad.

If your coach displays any indication of remorse after one of his rant and raves then be rest assured the rehab is working It will be his own inner qualms that help pave the way to reclaiming his true character. It is difficult for anyone to face their mistakes. As soon as you do see your coach regretting his insane style the detoxifying methods can then be helpful.

"Success is piece of mind of which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable." - John Wooden, UCLA basketball coach.

Living with my stressed out coach in desperate need of help needless to say took an enormous toll on our marriage. The more carried away he became the further we grew apart. I didn't know how to help. I recall so many evenings after a game where I just bit my tongue. I didn't feel like getting into another full-blown argument. Our post-game fights became so predictable. He would dismiss all my concerns, which would make me feel even more frustrated. On nights such as these I would often make sure my player survived the scrutiny he had been subjected to and tried to avoid any further confrontation. I was tired and felt hopeless.

In retrospect I wouldn't say I was in denial of the situation but I do feel it was on these nights of pretend peace that I was enabling my coaches habits. I wished I had known how to effectively approach my husband instead of just closing all the windows of possibilities because I didn't want to hear the same things again. With the benefits of perspective I wish I had been more consistent. What a confusing message I must have been sending. I should have immunized my husband when he was coaching Tball instead of just celebrating I didn't have to carpool to practice anymore.

With all the anger and embarrassment my coach exposed me to at the field how was I supposed to be his loving wife at home. I wasn't attracted to that man who just had given such shattering looks of disappointment to our son. I couldn't recognize his screaming voice as one in the same as the voice that once whispered sweet nothings in my ear.

The relationship between my player and his dad was in great turmoil as well. My player however had a great deal more courage than I, having to be the one out on that field and managed to perform under those conditions. My player functioned with dignity and love for the game while I sat on the bleachers trying to distract everyone from the elephant on the field.

"The same things win. It doesn't matter where you coach them. The game is the same." - Mike Dubose, University of Alabama football coach.

At home both my player and I often made great efforts to please our coach. Our unspoken hope was that if he were happy and satisfied it would help improve his demeanor during the games. We would go out of our way to make him comfortable and relaxed. However we could tell even before the first pitch was thrown that our efforts were all in vain.

Many players of stressed out coaches reminded me of my son. These players all seem to have a great deal in common. They usually are placed in the top four batters of the line up and are talented enough to rotate in almost all positions. These boys share a lot of the same survival tactics. An awesome sense of humor is essential. Cracking jokes always seems lightens the mood after the coach flips out. What else are they suppose to do to weather the storm. These players tried to watch their teammates backs while his own was definitely breaking.

I've asked my player a few times just what went through his mind while his dad chewed him out. He told me he would completely tuned him out and tried not to hear a thing. Yet another trait all these boys seem share. I have witnessed many just look away from their coach as soon as the yelling starts and begin to mumble to themselves, often times flavored with a few obscenities.

"I believe managing is like holding a dove in your hand. If you hold on too tightly you'll kill it, but if you hold it too loosely you'll loose it." - Tommy Lasorda LA Dodgers, baseball coach.

It only took a few years for my coach to become so completely unruly there were several games where his behavior was so far over the top I was thrilled! Yes you read that correctly, thrilled! As his intensity increased so did my excitement that someone was going to come to my aid and put this all to an end. I recall his actions were so wildly outrageous that I was positive the opposing coach or even better the umpire would call him out on it.

I clearly remember with such anticipation of relief watching the appalled faces of my soon to be heroes. I desperately needed their help since my husband had completely stopped listening to anything I had to say about the game. Why should he listen to me really, when I was practically the only one who was accusing him of inappropriate behavior.

Alas not only did no one come to my rescue at these insane games, the bar just kept rising with what level of insanity he felt he could get away with

I also placed false hope in my husband's recovery once we had the perfect season or when we had an amazing dream team. Both of those events did come to fruition and were simply amazing however did not induce the cure I had anticipated. If only even one man in blue or perhaps one opposing coach would have approached my coach regarding his outrageous conduct he might have listened.

Strangely enough the umpires and opposing coaches were not the only ones biting their tongues. Regrettably there was an understood silence amongst us Mrs. Coaches. We never discussed what lunatics are husbands had become. It was as if we found harmony in our silent code. We only exchanged looks of sympathy and offered muted validation.

Mrs. Coaches stick out like sore thumbs at games. If her coach is a stand up guy she would be the one sitting in the bleachers having the time of her life. When the opposing team's coach is stressed out his wife is the one shamefully sitting in the bleachers as if the weight of the world was on her shoulders. We share similar survival traits with each other much like our players. Compassionately we cheer for every player on our team. Our efforts of encouragement are sometimes our way of compensating for our coach's hurtful criticisms.

We also learn to have a very quick wit with perfect comedic timing. This humor comes in very handy when trying to drown out our coaches yelling. Even among many dear friends within my own league, us Mrs. Coaches' use to resolve in silently supporting each other. We knew exactly what each other were going through, but why would we want to verbalize our problem when we could not visualize a solution?

"Believe deep down in your heart that you are destined to do great things." - Joe Paterno, Penn State football coach.

Not only do I believe that it is important for Mrs. Coaches to know how to effectively support our husbands, I am positive that we need to actively support one another.

We need to realize that even though our sons may play different sports and wear different color uniforms we are all on the same team. If Mrs. Coaches work together to help our husbands it will abet future coaches as well. By our united efforts I am confident we can drown out this wrongly accepted tolerance of insanity and allow us to put our seasoned sense of humor to better use. Before we know it our wonderful players will be the eager husbands signing up to coach and lets make sure we are the grandmothers sitting in the bleachers having the times of our lives.