An Open Letter to All the Coaches Who Get Yelled At: I Want to Say Thank You

Dear Coaches,

Sometimes you get a bad rap. Parents will say you didn't play the right kid at the right time. Or that you let little Johnny sit on the bench for too long. Maybe you don't push them hard enough . . . or you push them too hard. On and on. The complaints about coaches seem endless. But I want you to know that there are plenty of parents out there who are truly thankful for the dedication and time that you put into our children — because it not only affects them on the field, but is carried off of the field, too.

As a parent, I've sat on the sidelines and watched my children play soccer, basketball, swimming, and gymnastics. Sometimes they excel naturally at a particular sport, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they have a great game, and sometimes they play downright bad. I know that's part of the cycle. And while I provide constant encouragement, it doesn't mean as much as the encouragement that comes from you, their coach. I truly believe that you coaches ignite a true love of the game (whatever that game may be) within our children.

And I've seen it firsthand. My son recently started playing travel soccer, and thanks to his coaches, he's improved tremendously. He went from being a kid who haphazardly toe-kicked the ball to one who willingly goes out in the backyard to practice his new moves. He sets up his little orange cones and encourages his friends to join along in a spontaneous pickup game. And that's all because of you. His coaches have not only helped him improve, but instilled in him the intrinsic motivation to succeed. And most importantly, they've done it at an age-appropriate level, allowing him to fall in love with the game of soccer — instead feeling pressure to succeed.

I don't think many parents realize how difficult coaching a sport can be. As a former coach myself, of both high school players and little kids, I know that it is one of the toughest jobs out there. And many of the coaches of little kids are unpaid. They volunteer their Saturday mornings, weekday evenings, and more — all for our children. I think it's time we gave you the credit you're due. Because it's coaches like you who are doing their best for our kids. You organize the practices, the very important snack schedule, and drills. You encourage our kids, teach them the rules, and help them learn to love exercise.

You also do something very important for our young children — you get them excited about sports. Athletics have come a long way, and it feels like today's kids can face a lot of pressure about excelling at a sport. But it's you who takes the time to show them how much fun being on a team can be. You teach them that the real joy from sports comes intrinsically, from the love of the game, not through reward or punishment.

And you also teach them another important lesson: accountability. Being on a team means that others are counting on you, a lesson that even the youngest children can learn. If a child feels like sitting down in the middle of a game, well, their teammates will get let down because they needed every team member to work hard with them. You show them the value of their time and effort, and the sense of accomplishment they feel when they master a new skill, or play their best in a tough game. You do all of that, for almost nothing in return.

So, coaches, thank you. Thank you for all that you do for our children. We appreciate your time, effort, encouragement, and more. Without you, our kids would not have the ability to thrive in a sport they love — nor would they be as well-equipped for life off the field. I think you should forget about the naysayers — you can't always please everyone. And there will always be parents who appreciate you.

A Grateful Sports Mom