Words — good and bad — are big part of sports

While reading the Saturday sports page, it’s hard to comprehend the message many coaches give after a game. I don’t even understand why sports writers select the quotes. I know they said it, but why?

There are more personal advantages than disadvantages to being a coach. It is an advantage to even a losing coach that there has never been a perfect game plan. Another is sports is one of the few remaining free learning experiences for kids. Because young athletes soak up improvements like a sponge, coaching is one of the great rewards of life.

One of the disadvantages is the expectation that coaches should never make a mistake. Interscholastic coaching is dynamic, ever-changing, flexible, and adjustment-oriented leadership of youth who seek, search and blunder.

Another disadvantage is being second-guessed, quoted and misquoted. Publicly explain or take the blame – or both. Suddenly the sports reporter is the genius.

Usually a reporter selects a printable quote from the winning coach. Sometimes the losing coach’s comments make more sense. Often it’s the players that say something significant about the game.

Early season coaches quotes are usually upbeat and positive. Like these:

“I have high expectations for a team returning almost all of their starters. This is a true team … any of the 19 girls can be my voice during a game.” (Joe Hampson, Shorewood coach, 1999 4A girls soccer state champs)

“The girls have a lot more confidence. They like to run. It’s a very cohesive family. … My ultimate goal is not so much winning the state title, but to have the girls run to the best of their ability.” (Julie Coburn, Marysville-Pilchuck 1999 girls cross-country 4A runnerup)

But at times we forget the greatest role in achieving success has always been played by the value of errors.

Immediately after contests, in the moments of victory, blunders or disappointments, coaches say some of the darnedest things.

“I can’t wait for this season to end.”

“Some kids (opponents) had shirts that said co-champs. The trophy was in our case.”

“They didn’t stop us. We stopped ourselves.”

“Our players had their helmets on backwards.”

“They came to play, we didn’t.”

Players seem to say things about the game. Significant things.

“We won, but they taught us how to play as a team.”

“Our defense brought us great field position all night.”

“The plus side is we’re getting our second half back.”

“They just kept coming at us. We were lucky to win.”

“It’s inspiring to see another M-P person in front of you because you want to run with them.”

Reports about injuries to the best players are important.

So-called volleyball ankles are caused by stepping on another player and twisting the joint. Kennedy lost a key player to such an injury, causing their excellent coach, Tom Muckerheide, to say, “I have nightmares about that ankle-sprain thing. I don’t think I’ve had a season go by without an ankle sprain. … I think we were a state-trophy type team last year when we were healthy.”

Team members are concerned about all injuries, including those suffered by reserves who never play. Especially if the injured person was a team player.

Physical injuries often come from doing something incorrectly. With young athletes it’s too frequently caused by overuse and doing too much too soon. The only differences between the causes of “tennis elbow” and “little league elbow” are the age of the elbow and conditioning for the sport.

Yes, there are accidental injuries. There are an equal number of emotional injuries, subtle and quietly endured. Emotional injuries are seldom made visible by the injured. Some hurts aren’t bandaged.

And when the coach told his team after an embarrassing loss, “Don’t tell anyone I’m your coach,” the team members still turned out the next day. Good coaches esteem their teams. Team members know when they are esteemed. Kids, like you and I, need emotional encouragement and support to gain self-esteem.

Athletes are very forgiving of being “dissed” so long as the “disser” is on their side. Published verbal “disrespect” (dissin’) by an opponent becomes a locker room wall hanger – forgotten only by forced swallowing of the words.

Sooner or later we all deserve to experience the taste.

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