A few months back, I wrote an article detailing all the reasons why people shouldn’t go into coaching. You can read here about all the stresses and frustrations coaches have to put up with. The pressure to win is overwhelming, rarely is anyone satisfied, and at almost every level of coaching you have someone telling you how to do your job.
Well, call me a flip-flopper if you want, but I have to disagree with my past self. I think I was letting off some steam when I wrote that piece. In fact, I know that was the case. Truth is coaching has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life.
Why the sudden change of heart? Our high school tennis team had its year end banquet the other night and I always give a little speech about each one of my players. As I was writing my remarks, I found myself smiling at all the stories, the inside jokes, and the closeness of our team. I’m not going to remember our record, or where we finished in the conference standings. Laughing with those guys on the bus rides and poking fun at each other on the practice court, those are the irreplaceable memories that take the work right out of the job.
How can I forget one of my sophomores asking, “Coach, will you take us to eat at Hooters? I promise we won’t tell anyone.” How can I possibly describe the satisfaction of talking to one of my volatile freshman about maturity and character, then having him be the one to ask if he can stay after practice and if he could organize off-season workouts? Of course, parents complained and sometimes the effort level in our practices wasn’t what it should have been. There were several difficult days. The kind of days when I lost my cool and I wondered if I was really having any kind of impact at all. Then there was the day when my lone senior told me how he hated tennis his first two years, how he thought about quitting because the team had no chemistry. He said, “I’m so glad I didn’t Coach Loeber. In these last two seasons, I’ve had more fun than at any other time in school. I love this team, and I’m gonna miss you guys.”
And that’s when it hit me. This is all worth it. Who cares about backhand technique or doubles strategy? In the end what matters are the friendships, and that’s why being a coach is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. I have a connection with a group of guys that will last forever, and they’ve made me a better man along the way. The best part for me is watching them become young men with drive, passion, and integrity.
So I guess I get it now. I understand why coaches go gray and lose their hair, but I also understand why they work the long hours, why they obsess over details, and mostly, why they get so emotional when then have to let their players go. I know coaching isn’t for everyone. I believe it’s a calling, and for me, it’s been a tremendous blessing.
My guys gave me a card the other night that sums it up perfectly. It reads: “Even when someone irritates the crap out of you, you can still love them. We’re proof of that.”
Amen fellas. I do love you guys, and I can’t wait till next season. Thanks for changing my mind.