I’ll call him Ben. He was a wizened old auto mechanic by trade, philosopher by practice. He and I were leaning on the fence watching the high school football game (at the time I was the principal of that high school).
Ben and I were comparing notes on game strategy, player proficiency, the weather, life, and coaches. On the latter of those topics Ben commented that “the one you ain’t got always looks better than the one you got.”
I had seen coaches come and go, seen them win and lose, seen them castigated and memorialized. But, Ben had made an astute observation – every coach I’d ever known had been subjected to critique (often severe) by virtually everyone who had an interest in the team. More often than not, the critics had never tried coaching, had never attempted to lead a group of 12-18 year olds, had never been charged with organizing anything more complex than the weekly schedule of their own family. Why in the world would/do coaches repeatedly submit themselves to such relentless (and often unfair) scrutiny?
Coaches risk being criticized every time they put their “product” on the field or the court. It comes with the territory. Most do it, however, with a clear eye on the future – the future of the young men and women they’re attempting to discipline, mold, refine, and shape. They are very aware that the real contest is not today’s game, but rather, the long game.
Now having the benefit of 40 years of retrospect, the one you ain’t got might look better than the one you got. But virtually all who don the title “coach” are worthy of our appreciation.
While I’m at it, “Thanks, Coach.”