The difference a caring coach can make.

This story actually goes back a number of years ago. And for once it’s not about me.  

Up until the time my son Adam hit high school (he’s 21 now) he was kind of a shy, quiet kid. He didn’t make friends easily, and he was definitely “his own person” meaning he didn’t try to conform to the norm. As such, when he would get onto sports teams where he didn’t know anyone he would tend to easy not to notice. He had some athletic ability — not a stud by any means but certainly not a complete incompetent either — but most times the coaches wouldn’t know, because they were focused on the kids who were more aggressive and seemed more interested.

This went on until the day he got on an AYSO soccer team coached by the father of his friend Kris. Kris’ dad Jim Bauernsmith had worked with the AYSO organization for a long time, and really believed in the principles they espoused. He also knew Adam from his hanging around the house, which helped.

From the first practice on, Jim brought Adam out of his shell, gave him confidence, and set expectations for him. Adam had more fun the three years he played for Jim than he had in a long time. And it spilled over into his other activities, including playing baseball.

Adam played a year of soccer in high school, but didn’t much care for it. He had no interest in playing baseball so we figured his sports career was over. His sophomore year, however, he discovered lacrosse and eventually went on to become a starter on his high school’s first-ever varsity lacrosse team. He played hard and played well, and was the kind of kid the coach wanted on the field all the time. That was a huge change for him.

I don’t think any of it would’ve happened without Jim, though. Jim’s taking a little extra time to work with a kid who just needed some encouragement had a huge impact on his life. Adam is now in ROTC at EIU and is in the Illinois National Guard. He is a self-assured, confident young man with both a good sense of humor and a sense of purpose.

How many times do coaches give up early on a kid because they think it will be too hard to make it work? There are all kinds of diamonds in the rough out there. But you have to be willing to look for them, and to bend down to pick them up, if you’re ever going to find them. Take a look at your own teams and see who needs that extra pat on the back or someone to believe in them. You never know how it will turn out for you.
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