The Power of a Coach #jacob

I’ve had the pleasure of watching my son interact with a phenomenal coach starting with the regular 2016 little league season and continuing through our last two All-Star seasons.  Never having experienced organized sport’s coaching myself, I avoid being overly critical of these hard working, volunteer coaches.  I inherently understand the value of a good coach but not the specifics or the complexity of that relationship.

Through my son, I am understanding.  And my heart is full to bursting.

Trust comes first.  Trust that the athlete is taken care of physically.  Working kids too hard is unacceptable.  Trust that the athlete is taken care of emotionally.  We’re talking about kids.  Pre-adolescent boys who get distracted, can be overly boastful, forget things, act goofy, hide their emotions and sometimes cry.  It’s a complicated time.  Trust that the adult understands the sport, understands the 12-year old version of the sport and understands how to get the best out of these young men.

Love comes next.  Love for kids (even the goofy, forgetful ones).  Love for the game.  Love for the ups and the downs of competition.  I know that tough love has a place here somewhere but even through the difficult parts of coaching, your outward expression is about confidence in your athletes, believing in them and then turning that page and moving forward.

Here’s where things get unique for my son and this coaching journey I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing.  He would walk on water for this coach.  He looks to this man first when he finishes an inning, he checks in with this adult first upon arriving at practice, he looks forward to seeing him most over teammates and fans.  And when this particular coach isn’t there, he’s in Jacob’s ear.  His impact is profound.

And what of his other coaches?  Wonderful human beings.  Lovely, knowledgeable, caring adults–all three.  I would choose this trio of coaches for every kid.  But there’s a unique bond for my son with this one individual.

Connection is the third part.  Whatever conversation, joke, experience forged this bond, I am thankful.  And more importantly, I wish this connection for every kid, for every activity through their life.  I’m deeply invested in our local Mentoring nonprofit and I believe this is what we hope to orchestrate through our Mentoring matches.  It often works but sometimes does not.  We want every child to have a quality adult who shows up, listens and believes in that child.  Parents do this.  But there’s something else going on when it’s not a relative.  It’s a choice, not an obligation.

Belief is the final piece.  Belief in Jacob’s ability even when Jacob doesn’t feel it himself.  Belief that he can fulfill his role on the team when he’s in his worst slump.  When’s the last time someone said, “I believe in you.”  I can’t recall a time.  Jacob has the benefit of this constant, heartfelt, realistic vote of confidence.  And as much as I love my son and see his athletic ability, I don’t have the same power to build him up.  It’s different.

So coaching matters.   I understand more fully now and have loved watching it happen.  We had our final loss of Jacob’s little league career last night.  I was devastated.  It means we’re turning a page.  My heart is heavy.  But even as Jacob was pitching his final inning, when he needed confidence, I watched him mimic his coach’s wide spread arms and deep breath.  In unison.  Set.  Ready.

And after the game, after the clapping and tears and hugs…. his coach found him in the parking lot.  “Hold your head high,” he said.  And Jacob did.


Thank you, Darrin.  Photo credit: Dwight Sugioka






Do they like me? Another reflection.

Warning: Very stream of consciousness today.  No editing; I just need to get it out.  If I edit, I’ll never hit Publish.

It’s pretty silly.  And not in any of the readings about school leadership.  But doesn’t everyone want acceptance?  To be liked?  By students.  By parents.  By staff.

And all through the year, as I hit bumps in the road, corrected systems of operation, developed relationships, pushed us to consider our values and dreams for students, I wondered, Do they even like me?

Ultimately the work needs to be done, and I love it.  And focusing on what’s best for students helps.  I’ve got that down.  But as human beings, we crave camaraderie and fellowship.  Elementary principal can be a lonely job.  So the question would come up.  And some days I’d tell myself it didn’t matter and I didn’t care.  Not true.

There was some weird juju about my office.  Staff would come to the door to speak with me but wouldn’t cross the threshold.  Again and again it would occur.  Do I need to invite you in?  Is there some negative connotation with being seen in my office?  What was the pattern here before me that keeps them at the carpet’s edge?

Education is such heart work.  My hubby’s job isn’t anywhere near the field of education.  And it’s very difficult for him to understand what I do.  I almost had him understanding teaching after fourteen years.  Almost.  And now as site leader, a lot of what I do is even hard for him to grasp.  He leaves his work at work.  We run into my work everywhere we go.  Everywhere.

One morning in early May I had a big discovery when talking with my mentor.  Does the staff know I’m committed to our school?  Do they know I’ve made my adjustments, and I’m not looking to leave?  Remember, we didn’t choose each other.  Transfer.  Bam!  Here’s your new principal.  So this year has almost gone by, many bumps, many triumphs.  I needed to share my intentions.  My settledness.

So I did.  Second to last staff meeting.  After acknowledgements were shared.  “I want to share with you that I feel very settled here at Valley Vista.  It’s something that I couldn’t have said a few months ago and I want you all to hear me just as I’ve come to realize it myself.  I’m not planning on going anywhere.  I am enjoying my work here, I love coming to work everyday, our community is wonderful and I believe we have some amazing work to do together.”  Awkward pause.  A few teary eyes around the table.  Did I feel a collective sigh from the group?  Perhaps my imagination.  But it felt good to say it out loud.

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New VV Logo Sticker! It’s a beautiful tree full of our values for student learning.

I needed to consider my Do they like me? question from a different angle.  Staff is wondering the same thing: Does she like us?  Will she stay?  Are we going to go through another change?  I’m sure a few of them are indifferent or perhaps wish I’d take a hike.  But the vast majority are appreciative of the work we’ve done thus far, my availability and approachability.  Students are awesome, the most flexible of all.  Parents have shared positive feedback as well.  But teachers and support staff keep the ship afloat.  WE keep the ship afloat.

So now to rejuvenate and recharge.  August is around the corner!