Man, I thought I had just landed my dream job. It has all the elements that make life grand. When I saw this quarter-page ad in ADN, I thought to myself, where do I sign up? The ad reads “Sports Coordinator, teach sports fundamentals, travel domestic and abroad, 7 days a week.” Dude, why doesn’t this kind of gig come along more often? You get to play with kids all day and you might even enjoy watching the prodigy excel at their chosen sport. The exhilaration of knowing you’re going to be paid to enhance young athletes progress along the learning curve of life, with true life experiences that simultaneously build character, life skills and athletic acumen.
I just had my 30-something reunion of the junior hockey team I played for, way back when on LI. Experiences of my youth come flooding back to me occasionally, some extremely fun and entertaining and some not so much. But through it all, they are my memories of sports and fans and crazy times shared by many. The true measure of a person’s character evidenced through their sports involvement and by observing them as spectators.
I’ve been a coach most of my adult life, started when I was a teenager and continue to this day in some capacity or another. Several decades have too quickly passed and I begin to notice a pattern to things, like always seeing the same parents on the sidelines come rain or shine, their willingness to transport kids and stinking hockey gear from here to Timbuktu. Always looking forward to next weekend, always a road trip in bad weather, always some crisis or another that needs to be remedied on the fly. It can be incredibly taxing, expensive, frustrating and yes, ultimately rewarding in the end.
I reflect on all the good times, the frustrating games, the poor officiating and the always-present crazed parental spectators, I smile at the memories and reflect on the nostalgia. For all those who have seen the movies “Slap Shot,” “Miracle on Ice,” “Mystery Alaska” or any other slightly exaggerated hockey documentary, let me assure you, these depictions of life on the road are not far from the reality of it.
I’ve watched naturally talented kids waste their blessings and less talented or even challenged kids do their absolute damnedest to give the team their best effort no matter what. Kids’ faces, beaming the pride and pure joy of a championship earned, not bought. To share with them all the emotions of being a winner and coping with the devastating crush of losing the close one. But, through it all, to come away with values and memories that last a lifetime. Even being privileged to watch as kids I’ve coached, grow to propagate the next generation of young athletes.
Then, just as I weigh all the pros and cons whilst reading this ad and contemplate responding, I remember. I already have a full time, 24/7/365, values instilling, sportsmanship inducing, skills building, travel agent, luggage rack, family concierge job. First lesson is free, you can shirk the heartache, but you can’t buy the rewards!