Hey all! Todd Here!
One of the things you learn–but often forget–when coaching children is how much time you actually spend with them.
I went from being an athlete to a coach… in what seemed to be, a blink of an eye.
Sometimes, as a coach, you may spend more one-on-one time with children than their parents do.
At our youth tri club, we practice 2+ hours a week and if there’s a race, you can double that time.
Last year, during a break at one of the practices, one of the little ones walked up to me and just stood and stared. He looked up at me and I looked at him and said, “What’s up buddy?”
He simply said, “I wish you were my daddy.”
I quickly replied, “Don’t say that buddy, your daddy loves you very much.”
And his dad did/does love him.
But what is missed sometimes, is just how much time young children crave from adults. How much they desperately want attention and need positive reinforcement.
And while coaches influence kids, kids also influence us…
While I lived in Florida, I volunteered as an inline hockey assistant coach at the YMCA. While coaching, I wasn’t much older than the kids. I was in my early 20’s while most of the kids were 13-17. So literally, I was close enough in age to be an older sibling.
One of the kids who I met was Alex.
Alex loved to push my buttons, but knew exactly when to back off. He could make me see red while making laugh instantly afterwards. He was also a quiet kid with a huge heart.
One Sunday, I was driving home from church and saw Alex walking. It was hot outside–I mean, high 90’s and high humidity in Florida kinda hot! He had a tank top thrown over his shoulder and was walking alongside the road. Thinking he might be walking to a friend’s house, I pulled over and asked if he needed a ride. He readily accepted the ride and jumped into the car.
As we drove, I asked where he was headed.
He said, “I’m heading to the grocery store to get my mother a Mother’s Day card…”
[Wow….How could I, as an adult, have forgotten Mother’s Day?! Ooops.]
So we made it to the grocery store and I let Alex go shop around. I picked up a few things and I witnessed something I will never forget. Alex pulled out a crumpled up dollar bill and a pocket full of change and dumped it on the register. Unfortunately, he didn’t have enough to buy the simple card that he wanted. However, I had no problem whatsoever quickly jumping in and paying the difference.
[After all, he helped me remember Mother’s Day!] But also, he taught me a great lesson: nothing should be allowed to get in the way of love. Not money, not heat–even the Florida kind. He had such a huge heart… and it made a huge impact on me.
I drove him home and that was the last time I saw Alex. After moving to Georgia, I received a phone call from an old friend.
In that call, I was told that Alex had been killed in Afghanistan. And I had no idea that he had even joined the Army.
I was so dumbfounded by the news. I was immediately taken back to that day, the crumpled dollar bills–the kid who loved his mom so much that he didn’t care how far he had to walk to show it.
The amazing thing about youth coaching and being in the presence of young people… you are making a difference in their lives, sure.
But sometimes the biggest gift and surprise is just how much of an impression they leave on you.
Todd is a husband, father of three, youth triathlon coach and 140.6 finisher.
He’s our new contributor to Swim Bike Kid.