Great people make great coaches. Great coaches make great people.
Let us never underestimate the power of great sports parents, especially when they cross over into coaching with the sole purpose of helping everyone grow. It does not happen all of the time, so when someone puts aside the idea of their kid being first and priority, you lean in. And when they get a group of parents and young people to lean in, something wonderful happens.
Such was the case in Riverton, Utah back in the early 2000’s. I went to a little league practice with my adopted family and the son that was playing on the team, and I took perch on top of a small hill so that I had a distant few of the goings on. (Yes, I also intended to not be the butting in guy that I have so much distaste for!). I sat up in the Utah summer sun, roasted a bit, and was called to lean in as I saw the coach really making a point to laugh with his players during a water break. I had seen the uncertainty of the team, really young kids who may or may not had totally committed to the idea of playing football in this heat, wearing all of the pads and uniforms and getting hotter, or the running into one another at the fastest pace they could muster. Among the kids were some stars, some studs, and a lot of question marks. I watched and clapped in my head at their successes, clasped my fingers together and prayed at their falling down, and cheering when the coach got one of the questions to become an answer. I saw some things that I could add, but resisted. Temporarily.
I watched another days work, sat through practice and eyeballed from my spot atop the hill, only to be called down by a player with tears. He did not want to hit. He just did not. So, I found my way to him and whispered “It’s going to be okay.” He looked at me with the oddest of looks and asked how did I know. I simply said “I’ve been there. I was you a long time ago. He laughed at the big black guy telling the white kid from Utah that they were the same. I laughed too. I walked him over to the coach and handed him off after introducing myself to them both. We started talking about the practice, and then the drills, and then…oh no…im butting in. Doggone it. Im butting in. Well, at least Im not coaching.
The coach and I talked a bit more, and as I stood there a football whizzed near, and old habits die hard, I caught it. I had their attention. Another kid asks if I coach. (Do not say yes DP. Do not say yes. )
The next thing you know, its days letter and I am in the drills with the coach and the kids, beginning years of laughs, car rides, bus rides, hugs, over night sleepovers, ballgames, snow games, wins, championships, and love. That coach became one of my best friends, confidants, and sounding boards. He led this team, program, and community to some great moments, and I can easily say that I am a better coach from having stood next to him on the sidelines in Utah. No matter little league or high school, the conversations were the same. They were about how to raise these young men, how to address their needs, and how to make the parents proud of us all. They were about being decent on the field and off, about taking care of each other, and themselves. And, about winning.
I won when I met Coach Lyle Milham. We certainly won a lot together. His LovePrints are all over the state of Utah.
Well done buddy!