The Dark Side of Youth Sports

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The idea behind youth sports is to make it about the kids and initially that is always the case. We get our kids into recreational sports to give them a chance to learn a sport, be active, socialize, have an outlet and hopefully make some life long friendships. That’s how it always starts. Everything changes when you transition into the competitive side. A different beast altogether . As parents we all tend to lose our shit and as coaches we realize that we will never make everyone happy. I spent many years as coach of a competitive team. There are times now that I wish I could have done some things differently. I do however have no regrets. I think that dwelling on things from the past is wasted energy. One thing that I always struggled with while coaching was that dreaded moment when you had to tell a young kid that he didn’t make the team or tell a player who was on the team that they were being replaced. I’d always have so much anxiety. I don’t think I can remember one time that actually went well. As soon as the word ‘unfortunately ‘ leaves your mouth that parent who is standing there with their kid stops listening.. essentially u become the teacher from Charlie Brown.. no explanation you give them, even if it’s the best most logical explanation in the world will register. They are angry, they are formulating their comeback and nothing u say will appease them. That parent will then proceed to tell you why you are wrong. It never fails. I hated that moment so much.
The biggest thing I learned while coaching is that although youth sports is meant to create friendships, it doesn’t. As coach I am everyone’s ‘friend’ because they need something from me. If you also have a son on the team you coach, he unfortunately becomes collateral damage in this as he too will have ‘friends’. As long as you choose a person’s kid you are the best coach in the world. If you cut this player down the road, you are the scum of the earth.

I thought i had this one parent who was a true friend. Turns out I was wrong. At one point, I was not coach of the team and his son was cut by the then current coach. I was there acting as assistant coach but had no say in his decision. That didn’t stop this parent from sending me a scathing email. As perplexed as I was to receive this email, It was hard to read. He made a point of telling me that almost noone liked me in the west island. Ouch. On the positive side atleast it wasn’t everyone ;). Also, in all likelihood those that didn’t like me, I didn’t like back. So even. Now what’s interesting about this parent is that while I coached his son not only was he one of my favorite players, he played quite a bit for me and eventually I chose him as captain. I treated him like my own son but in the end that meant nothing.
I am finding out now from my wife that my brother in law is going through the same thing in hockey. He coaches his young son’s team and he’s going through difficult years. He’s been vilified, hated and lost many friends. I had to remind my wife that these people are not true friends. I do feel for him. I can say that although I don’t have regrets, that I learned from the past, that I don’t dwell over it… if I could turn back time and restart I would choose not to be a coach. Not for what I went through but for the collateral damage that occurred for my son.

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