When Kids Quit – Part 2

8 Oct

Everything can change with a phone call.

Five minutes of conversation and beliefs I held to be true for years were unraveled.   Probably forever.

The phone call in question came from the President of our association.  He told me that he had reinstated the two players who quit during last Saturday’s game.

His reason, he said, was that they were kids.   12 and 13 year old kids who made a mistake.   A big mistake, for sure, but dismissing them from the team was, in his opinion, an even bigger mistake.

More than punishment, banishing them from the team denied us, as coaches, a chance to correct their mistake; to influence their thinking in a positive way.

The simple truth is that we, as coaches, know so little about their daily lives or the influences in their home that shape their thinking.  We see them more as athletes rather than kids, so the standards to which we hold them are higher.

More importantly, though, banishing them from the team denies them a chance to change for the better; a chance to redeem themselves.

I suddenly realized that he was right.  They were, after all, just kids.  Not pros, or high schoolers or even soldiers, though we often compare them to such.  And football, I am reminded, is just a game; not life and death.  A game through which we teach about life.

The old soldier in me softened.   In the time it takes for a thought to form and convey its essence to the brain, I went  from being an old school coach who didn’t condone quitting to a new age coach who sees it as another opportunity to teach.  I was enlightened and, in the same instant, forgiving.

If we, as coaches, are all about teaching, then even kids who quit deserve our instruction.   In fact, it can be argued they need it most.  It is, in these situations, that our instruction, our encouragement, is the appropriate response and can do the most good.   Suspended them for a game, make them run stairs, whatever.  Just don’t let them quit.

Teach them instead.  Because, when you think about it, that’s what we are: teachers.  And what better time is there to teach a kid about life than when he quits?

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