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This week I will wave an emotional goodbye to the team I have coached for the last ten years to take up a new role elsewhere. Here I reflect on my time spent with the club and the realisation that, within all the positives, there is a sense of regret. It has left me thinking, shouldn’t we be teaching our players so much more than simply how to play the game if we are to leave a true lasting legacy?
The 20th April, at Varsity, against our local rivals, will be my final game coaching the Cardiff Cobras.
Wow. That is a sentence I never thought I would write.
Even thinking about it just causes the emotion to rise. The blood, the sweat, the tears. The long nights. The bonds forged. The friendships gained. The heart-breaking lows, and the ecstatic highs.
For 10 years, it has been like my second family – sometimes dysfunctional, sometimes frustrating but always loyal and one that always gives everything.
Watching the players fight for each other and never quitting, no matter what is something I will keep with me forever. Being in the huddle at the end of the game and looking into the eyes of players that literally gave everything that day, and every day, for the red and black is something I am truly honoured to have been allowed to do.
These are the memories that I will take with me, and I am not ashamed to say that I suspect tears will flow when I pull on my coach’s top for the final time. But as I reflect on my time with the club, I ask myself, “What will they say about me when I’m gone?”
I’ll be upfront. Obviously I want them to be thinking positive things about me. That isn’t just ego talking, it is just natural. We all want people to think well of us don’t we?
I know what I would like them to think of me. I know what I have tried to do and I would like to think that is how I would be remembered, but I am reminded of a couple of Facebook posts. These talk about the wider aspects to coaching, above and beyond teaching someone how to physically/mentally play the sport.
They reference the influential position that we, as coaches, hold with the players and I wonder if the players I have coached think like this?
Especially the last one. I like to think that the WRs I have coached could tell you routes that would work against Cover 1 or the adjustment to make on a post route against open or closed fields … but that isn’t exactly a life skill! I suspect pretty much everyone reading this has no clue what I just wrote.
What I should be asking is, have I made them better people as well as players? How have I changed them for the better? What have they learnt? Have I had a positive influence?
For some I know the answer is yes, but I have seen a lot of players pass through the team over the years. What about the others that have long since gone? What would they say about me if asked? The more I reflect on this, the more I realise that for a long time that balance wasn’t there. I look back with regret on missed opportunities. If only I knew then what I know now…
So what is the purpose of this trip down memory lane? Well, hopefully if you got this far then it is making you stop and think about the impact that you are having on your athletes. Are you just teaching them the game or are you teaching them to be more than that? There was a great comment to the above post showing the picture of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (one of the most famous basketball players of all time). It said:
10-20 years from now, will you have adults coming up to you and saying “Hey coach! Remember me?” Or will they just walk by and not acknowledge you? If they just walk by, you didn’t do a great job.
For me, I am determined to not allow this to happen with my new team.
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