Coaching is a thankless job

I am a coach of the one of the senior basketball teams in Prince George.

The majority of you put in your hours at work and go home to your family. I put in hours at my job, but instead of going home to my family, I am rushing to the gym to make the three practice times and one league game a week. Instead of doing house chores on the weekend or spending time with my family, I am coaching three games each weekend. When the game ends you get to go home. I am still at the school waiting for the last person to be picked up.

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I have received angry emails and texts, full of "suggestions" about who should be playing where and how I lost that day's game for the kids.

I thought I'd write an open letter to all of you who don't volunteer your time coaching.

I am a volunteer. I'm the one who answered the call when the school said they didn't have enough coaches. Without me, or someone like me, there'd be no team for them to play on.

Why would anyone want to volunteer so much time away from their own family to coach your son or daughter? Not only do I not get paid to do this - it costs me money.

There are plenty of rewards and I remind myself that while you're at the office working, your kid is saying something that makes us all laugh or brings a tear to my eye.

However, the negatives outweigh the positives. I just wish that those who don't choose to volunteer their time would leave the coaching to the few of us who do.

-- Anonymous

Editor's Note: As a rule, The Citizen does not publish anonymous letters but was willing to make an exception for this letter. This is a personal issue for both the publisher (Colleen Sparrow was an active student athlete during her days at Duchess Park - go, Condors!) and me, as the parent of a player on the Kelly Road senior girls basketball team (go, Roadrunners!).

Youth coaches, whether it's for minor hockey or any other extracurricular sport or for school teams, are mentoring our children and giving them the tools to grow up to be responsible citizens. These coaches are doing far more than offering instructions on how to shoot a puck or sink a basket. They are teaching their players valuable lessons about leadership, teamwork, effort and resilience. In the classroom, students that do everything right get 100 per cent on their test. On the playing field, athletes learn that you can do everything right and still lose. That's an essential life lesson that builds grit and will help them cope with the many challenges and disappointments they will face in adulthood.

It's wonderful if your child is the star player on a winning team but the enduring lessons come from the tough losses, whether that's on the scoreboard, not making the team at tryouts or sitting on the bench while better players shine.

On Tuesday night, the Kelly Road senior girls lost to Duchess Park by 54 points but everyone was smiling at the end. Kelly Road, with Grade 9 and 10 players on their roster, played some of their best basketball of the season so far against a taller (with one noticeable and impressive exception), stronger, older team that will challenge for a provincial championship in the spring. Good sportsmanship was on full display the whole game and the coaches played their entire benches, encouraging their players to keeping working hard. The Kelly Road girls took away one additional lesson about the level they will have to play at if they want to be elite players on an elite team in the years ahead.

Thank you, local coaches, and please don't be discouraged. You are doing essential work and you will feel your sacrifice will have been worth it years from now when one of your former players, now an adult with a family of his or her own, will see you in the grocery store and stop to thank you, not for making them a better athlete, but for the fun times, the great memories and helping shape them into a decent person.

You might not even remember who they are when that day comes but they'll remember you and - most importantly - what you gave them.

-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout

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