I’m a pretty competitive person when it comes to sports. Whether playing, watching, or coaching, I like to win (well…who doesn’t?) and this competitiveness manifests itself in my intensity, my words, and my actions.
Today, Jacob’s grade 6 boys volleyball team from St. Paul Elementary School began the defense of their CISVA (Catholic Independent Schools Vancouver Archdiocese) championship from last year by going undefeated in the qualifying tournament. The team will hope to repeat as champs next Tuesday when they play at the day-long championships.
I’ve been coaching this team all season and it’s been a lot of fun…despite the early morning practices. They are a talented and fun bunch of guys. They are (mostly) respectful (haha) and generally trust me and my coaching decisions. There are some really good athletes on the team and when the best guys are playing their best, I truly don’t think there’s another school that can beat them.
I’ve also enjoyed the bonding time with Jake. While Sean is the more natural athlete, Jake works really hard and it’s been wonderful seeing the improvement in both his skills and his confidence over the past two months.
I have very high expectations for the team. Couple those expectations with my competitive nature, and it’s not uncommon to see me pacing on the sidelines while coaching. Or barking orders. Or frantically waving my arms. Or rolling my eyes. Or excitedly applauding.
One thing’s for sure: the boys always know how I’m feeling. All they have to do is watch me. Or listen to me.
During one of the matches today our team was going through a rough spot. They were mishandling passes and not communicating with each other. I could sense that they were getting restless and discombobulated and that they didn’t seem very comfortable out there. I guess me screaming at them to “wake up” didn’t help.
Finally, I screamed, “Relax! Relax! RELAX!!!”
Just as I was issuing my directive, the gym went eerily quiet so that everyone within a two-kilometre vicinity could hear me. My team looked at me. The opposing team looked at me. The parents on the stage looked at me. So did the players from the other court on the other side of the gym.
I quickly realized how ludicrous I looked. Here I was yelling at a bunch of 11 year-old boys to relax. But in imploring them to do so, I was doing everything but that.
The six boys on the court looked back at me, waiting to see what I would do next.
Sheepishly I cracked a smile and calmly said, “Have some fun out there and play your game.”
Thankfully, the boys turned things around and went on to win that set.
But it was certainly a good lesson to me looking ahead to next week’s championships. If I want the team to maintain its composure, then I must do the same. When the chips are down or the pressure is on, they will feed off my energy and my antics. And they will likely take their lead from me.
For better or for worse.