Friday, October 21, 2011

Can You Still Call Me Coach?

So, I coached my last high school soccer game last night, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

Not about the game, which we lost 1-0. I was disappointed with the result, but proud of the way that our little band of 15 battled to the end. I thought I was handling the result, and the end of my "second career," fairly well until I realized that I was still awake at 3 a.m., replaying the game in my head and making different decisions that could have changed the outcome of the match.

But, rather, how I feel about the simple fact that, as of today, I am an ex-coach.

I've always loved so many things about coaching. To be a part of, and lead, a team. The relationship with each and every one of the players that I've coached and the joy and at times frustration that inevitably results. The deep passion to want to succeed and help others succeed. The bond between co-coaches. The give-and-take with the skilled and smart fellow coaches that I was fortunate enough to coach against. Even, believe it or not, my relationship with many referees. Perhaps, most of all, being a teacher.

I received several awards and recognitions during my time as a coach, but two, which do not involve trophies or certificates or plaques, are the most special to me.

Receiving one of my awards, this one from the National Federation of High School Coaches' Association. My expression was unplanned, but captures my bemusement.

The first is the slip of official looking paper that I would receive from the State Board of Education certifying me as a "teacher".  When I first started coaching I never thought of myself as an educator, just another coach. But the receipt of that certificate every year struck home the point to me that I was indeed a teacher, with all the responsibility that that position entails, and I was very proud of it.

The second is simply to be called coach.

Almost every time I would call our athletic director, Bill Gillispie, he would respond to my latest request for help with an initial "Hey Coach, how's it going?" And while I always encouraged my players to call me by my first name, and almost all always did (in one variation or another) I have to admit that I was always a little tickled when they would greet me with a "Hi Coach!" rather than a "Kevin!"

I will no longer lead a team onto a field, or try to figure out what will motivate them or how to instruct them to make the most of what they are, or what they can be. But hopefully, in some way or another, I will always be worthy of the title.


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