John Wooden is the greatest sports coach of all time. As coach of the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team, Wooden won 7 National Championships in 7 years and a total of 10 in 12 years. A remarkable and unprecedented feat. He was a true “wizard” of the game that created offenses and dissected defenses, but his greatest accomplishment occurred off of the court. He was a coach, a leader, and a mentor. He left an everlasting impression on the young men who played for him and he changed their lives forever. He was a man who made an impact.
What if I told you that you could make the same impact?
You can and it is relatively easy. All you have to do is become a youth sports coach.
I grew up in a family who loved sports. I played Little League baseball and Optimist Club basketball at an early age. I look back on those days with a smile. I enjoyed being on those teams, playing the games that I loved with boys that became my friends for a lifetime. As I sit here and think back I can easily name every person that coached one of my teams. Why? The answer is simple…..each one of them had an impact on my life in some way. They taught me skills, the rules of the game, how to compete, how to be a good teammate, and ultimately how to win. They cheered me on when I needed encouragement and they held me accountable when I made a mistake. I looked up to them then and I still do today. Those men, and women, were volunteers. They did not have to invest the time in me, or our team, but they did. They selflessly invested their time to be my coach and for that I am forever grateful.
This year I signed up to coach a team in the Aboite Girls Basketball League, a local league for girls in the Southwest Allen County school district. MaKenna has played in the league for 4 years. I have helped with teams in past as an assistant coach or a practice helper, but I haven’t had the opportunity to be the head coach. For the last few years I made excuses for not coaching with the largest one being that I did not have time. Most of you know how I feel about that rationale and that excuse. It wasn’t true (it is almost never true). I could have made time and this year I was committed to doing so.
I am the coach of The Orange, a team composed of nine 7th and 8th graders. The girls are still trying to agree on a good team name. Suggestions thus far have been The Orange County Housewives, The Mangos, The Oompa-Loompas, The Egnaros, and the Nemos. An interesting selection of names in my opinion. My suggestion, The Killer Clownfish, fell on deaf ears. So, we play as The Orange. We practice one night a week for an hour and play games on Saturday mornings. We have won the only game we have played thus far and we are improving. My goals as coach is to teach them the game, develop some skills, and ensure that they have fun. Winning (not the priority but no one likes losing) will come if we accomplish these goals.
I am having a great time coaching this team. The girls are willing to learn and they are having fun. It is impossible not to smile when I am around this group. I hope that the girls will learn something new this season and look back on the experience with a smile. I have no idea what impact I can, or will, have. I just know that I love basketball and coaching. I encourage you to find a youth league in your area and get involved as a coach. Basketball, baseball, football, volleyball, it doesn’t matter. Just coach. Make an impact in a child’s life. You do not have to be an expert to be a youth sports coach.
You are not John Wooden and that is okay.