To All the Great Coaches…

Update for May 18-22

Congrats HFC U10 Girls Royal team on a great tourney!

A post shared by Herb Higginbotham (@herbhigginbotham) on

Playing sports can be one of the most important part of someone’s life.  The learning journey that takes place from participating in a sport carries over and often times becomes the experience that makes the biggest impact in someone’s life.

While many of the sports stories that captivate us deal mostly with players or with teams, I’ve been more captivated recently by the effect coaches have on those they serve.

I chose the word “serve” intentionally because I believe that the great coaches, the ones that make life-long, lasting impacts, coach because it’s their way of serving others and working towards a greater good.  The great coaches aren’t interested in winning only; they see their role as an opportunity to change lives through sports.  They see the sport they coach as a vehicle that carries the players they serve to something greater.

My daughter’s soccer coach is one of these people.

This weekend was a tournament weekend, a chance for kids like my daughter to play the sport they love for an extended amount of time.  During the second game my daughter’s team played, there was an irate parent whose daughter played for the other team.  At first, the father yelled at the referees for calls they made; nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to irate soccer parents.  However, this father took it a little too far.

My daughter’s team won the game that came down to a goal that was made within the last minute.  After the game, that same irate father charged across the field to continue to make his feelings heard.  During his tirade, he turned his focus of verbal attacks on my daughter’s coach.

Now, just for context here, picture a 6′ 3″ forty-something father yelling at a 22-year-old female coach. Not exactly a shining moment for this father.

In these moments, it’s how we respond to challenges that make us who we are.

My daughter’s coach politely said that the words he was using in front of the kids was inappropriate, turned herself away from the father and helped the girls move to another place on the field.

My daughter’s coach did what she could to put my daughter and her teammates safety and well-being before anything else and helped them get away from a negative experience. She could have chose to respond many different ways and with good reason, but she put kids first and walked away. All I could ever want as a parent is to have the adults in my daughter’s life be positive role models, and Coach Heather exceeds that expectation in the way she coaches.

Miguel Rodriguez is another story of how a coach’s compassion for others outshines the sports aspect of his life.  His story was featured on SportCenter this weekend.

Mr. Rodriguez is an immigrant from Venezuela.  He started a wrestling club a few years ago and works as a instructional aide for students with special needs.  One of those students is Isaiah Bird.

Isaiah was born with physical disabilities that makes him a unique wrestler.  He has no legs, yet is one of the most competitive wrestlers in his area.  As Coach Rodriquez puts it, “He’s the one to beat.”

At first, I was captivated about how this 7-year-old overcomes his physical challenges to become an outstanding wrestler.  However, by the end of the story, I am more taken with the deep compassion Mr. Rodriquez has for Isaiah.  He feels Isaiah’s life is only going to get rougher and Coach Rodriguez sees his role as someone who will get Isaiah ready to take on these challenges.

Take a look at the short trailer for the story and, if you have a moment, take a look at the full story.  It’s worth every second.

See the full compelling story here. It is worth every second. (Have the tissues on standby.) -> http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:12893699

The great coaches make it about something bigger than the sport they coach.  They see themselves as a servant leader who believes that sports are just a vehicle to get others to something greater.

On behalf of all players, I’d like to say thanks to all the great coaches.

Have a GREAT week!

-Herb

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