What I Learned From Being “The Coach’s Kid”

I’ve never really been the kind of person that was especially enamoured by people. I never had a Disney princess obsession and I’ve never been particularly starstruck over actors, athletes, or musicians. But if there ever was a person who I was exceptionally impressed with, (as many daughters are), it’s my dad.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been his biggest fan. He’s a coach by trade and he’s never let me forget it. I know he’s good at what he does. I attended my first basketball game before I was a year old and in the 19 years since, I’ve seen him win playoff games, district titles, and state championships. I’ve watched as he was named “Coach of the Year” multiple times. I’ve witnessed him build programs from the ground up, taking them over when they sported less-than-stellar records and turning them into contenders for state titles.

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Few things have shaped my identity as much as my father’s occupation. Growing up, I was Emily, also known as “The Coach’s Kid.” You don’t carry that designation without learning a few things along the way. So many of the lessons he instilled in me on the court and field are just as applicable now that I’m all grown up. These are a few of my favorite:

The call that’s made is the only one that matters. Life isn’t always fair. It doesn’t really matter what you think should have happened. It doesn’t matter if you think you didn’t touch the girl, or if you know that you beat a throw. If a foul was called, it was a foul. If the umpire called you out, you were out. Instead of analyzing what could have happened had that call not been made, you accept the fact that it was made and do your best to work from there. A situation doesn’t change just because you disagree with the outcome. All you can do is make the best of what’s in front of you.

You’re good, but you’re not the only one. My dad never for a second let me believe that I was the best at anything, and for that I am forever grateful. He made sure I was never content with my ability or skill level. Contentment breeds complacency, and complacency gets you left behind. The fact of the matter is, there will always be someone better. You can let this destroy you or you can let this motivate you.

There’s not many worse things an athlete can be than “uncoachable.” It does not matter if you are the best player in the state, if you are aren’t capable of accepting and applying criticism, you won’t amount to much.

Coaches make the decision they feel is best for the success of a team as a whole. If you aren’t starting, or if you aren’t playing the position you would like to be playing, there most likely is a valid reason. The reason is usually that a) you are a better fit elsewhere or b) someone else is better than you, plain and simple. The coach is under no obligation to make you or your parents happy. The team is not all about you. Life is not all about you. Learning to fulfill the role you are given, whether that be sitting on the bench and keeping the book or pitching every game, is what makes you successful.

All that matters is what you bring to the table on the day of the contest. Nothing up until that point is relevant. It does not matter if you haven’t lost a game all season and it doesn’t matter if the other guy has beaten you twenty-seven times in the past. All that matters is what is happening on that given day. You treat each opponent with dignity and respect and play each game like it’s your last– regardless of what your expectation is of the outcome.

Success means nothing if you aren’t happy. My dad always instilled in me that passion (on the field or court and in life in general) can make up for a lack of many other things. It really doesn’t matter how talented you are if you no longer love the game– if your heart isn’t in whatever you’re doing, you might as well not be there at all. I watched my dad coach basketball (very well) for 18 years. And then when I was 19, I watched him walk away. Though his years of winning records were a testament to the fact that he was indeed good at his job, he was no longer happy. He moved on to a new adventure and over the past year, he has been highly successful there as well.

Though the good Lord knows there were many a day when I couldn’t quite figure out if having a coach for a dad was a blessing or a curse, I think I’ve grown to realize that I am a better person because of it. I am better because of pitching practice at 6 AM before he left for work and left-handed layups until I could do them with my eyes closed. I am better because of hours spent in the gym on Sunday nights with him and years of us watching film, always searching for ways to improve. And most importantly, I am better because he always seemed to remember that his job on the court was not nearly as important as the job he had off. He’s supported me through every decision I’ve ever made. He’s loved me enough to to drive thousands of miles to watch softball tournaments for seven years straight, and then still loved me when I decided it just wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. He taught me how to swim, dribble a basketball, and drive a golf ball (or attempt to drive a golf ball… I’m still pretty bad at that). He’s always believed in who I am and who I want to be, and he never let me think that my dreams were out of reach. Even though he is a phenomenal coach, he never fails to remind me that he’s an even better dad.

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