jim thompson of the positive coaching alliance got some press for his bottom 10 list of the worst behavior in sports in 2006. the incidents, some with cringe-inducing video, are presented as talkable moments to share with one's kids. yeesh. to their credit, the coaching site also lists the top 10 moments in sports, including this charmer.
a good coach somehow reaches kids -- my kids, at least -- in ways that their parents and teachers cannot. my family has benefited enormously from amateur coaches this year, so i could easily fill a local top-10 (or top-100) list with positive examples drawn from esperanza's and tor's activities. these coaches work for nothing or next to nothing, putting in insane hours for my kids. think about it: if you were coach, how many 6 a.m. practices and two-day tournaments would you wedge into your schedule?
that's why i'm heartened whenever coaches get a little well-deserved recognition. tor's wrestling coach danny, shown above with his own lad, was just honored as the section's coach of the year. there's a nice story in the strib's north section this morning, and a fine photo of the large lad and his mates enjoying practice. the article highlights danny's two-a-days, 6 am practices, and "get tough" workouts. as the photo reflects, however, it isn't too difficult to find big laughs and smiles in the wrestling room.
knowing the team and its heavyweight, i can assure you that danny has definitely earned the accolades. with the 'stangs hitting the state tourney today, the really big task remains in front of him. no, i don't mean picking up something nice for the trophy case. the big task is to keep an amped-up crew of rather, shall we say, spirited lads in line for four days at a st. paul hotel.* the courage to face such daunting challenges probably explains why he's a coach and i'm not (and, parenthetically, why i won't be staying at said hotel).
i've witnessed stunning acts of generosity from coach dan and all his assistants this year, but my personal favorite involves the distinctive tie-dyed shirt tor wears before and after each match. this grateful dead tee was a gift from big chad, you see, an assistant coach who was himself a heavyweight wrestler like tor. big chad warmed up in that shirt throughout his own outstanding run as a high school and college wrestler, so the gesture means a lot to tor. plus, unlike dad's hand-me-downs -- such as my old baseball glove -- the shirt actually fits the enormous nonconformist.
good coaches, and good leaders more generally, seem to take their work a little more personally than others. my favorite coaches are those who care enough about their kids to get a little teary-eyed when things go very well or very badly for them. now that i think about it, i still keep a gracious letter from my old wrestling coach, craig skalicky, in a box with treasured family photos. i'm not sure how long we'll be able to keep the tie-dye shirt together, but the gift will never be forgotten. if you've benefitted from your coaches, or your kids have learned something important from their coaches, you might want to express your gratitude. send 'em a letter or buy 'em a beer. they deserve more than a plaque for their efforts.
*i was surprised to learn (a) that tor would be staying in a hotel, since the tournament is less than 10 miles from our house; and, (b) that i'm not picking up the tab. i wholeheartedly approve, of course, since (one way or another) rooming with his buds will make this experience much more memorable. i'm just praying that he doesn't return sunday with a full-back mustang tattoo or a keith moon-like bill for damages.