Earlier this week, my son told me that he had a problem with the way his coach spoke to him during a recent game.
He told me that he felt offended, disrespected, angry, and unsure about his desire to play hockey at that moment.
Conclusions could be drawn about how my 14-year-old son, who is on a Tier 2 Bantam team, needs to toughen up and move on; but first, allow me explain a few things about him.
My son is a deeply respectful person who values others, and their thoughts and feelings. He has had his share of moments in which he has stirred up mischief, has retaliated in some situations, and has reacted to others in ways that are unfair. Nonetheless, he is an admirable human being. He is soft spoken, caring, sensitive, thoughtful, and brilliant. He is one of my best friends. I adore him and wish more kids were like him. I even wish I was more like him.
Did I mention he is deeply respectful?
I have often reminded my son that if he respects himself he is better able to respect others; consequently, he would receive respectful treatment from others.
Oh, boy! Have I misled him! Maybe I just forgot to stress that sometimes we are all imperfect human beings. Who am I kidding? He has witnessed enough of my own failings to know that life is not always flowers and fluff!
So after thinking about how he was affected, I sent off an email to his coaches that addressed this situation as well as another issue or two. The subject line of my email was “Some issues.”
I thought I had been level-headed enough to send out an email that would address exactly what I wanted to address in a way that was fair.
I should mention a few important things to consider before I continue on:
First, I magically transform into a mother bear with grizzly strength when I see my cubs in pain. I try to protect them from perceived danger, which has sometimes resulted in ferocious growls and roars meant to scare the bejeebers out of our attackers -- err, I mean -- I have often overreacted in an effort to protect my children.
Second, in the past, my husband has told me I can be quite confrontational and abrasive when in situations like this -- I concede.
Third, I am inevitably flawed.
Moving on -- I have an already formed opinion that parents and coaches are too hard on kids in sports. I believe that an enormous amount of pressure is placed on them to perform perfectly at all times. Sometimes it feels that manners and respect are checked at the doors of our rinks, stadiums, and sports venues.
Because of this opinion, along with not recognizing the ease with which we as human beings regularly make mistakes, I viewed myself as perfect for a moment. The email I sent in that moment was a little more critical than necessary.
I acted like I was addressing a bully. I said that the coach should check himself before the next game to consider the impact his coaching style would have towards children who are looking for guidance and support.
That was only part of my critical email.
I don’t condone the way this coach may have spoken to my child, but after coming down from my high horse I must shamefully confess that I, too, have been guilty of thoughtless actions and words which have harmed others.
I have reacted in unfair ways which can be interpreted as nothing other than bullying. I am not proud of that. When I look back at those moments, I am embarrassed but compelled to never give up in finding ways to express my disappointment, fear, pain, stress, and anger with less judgement and more respect.
When I began writing this I had intentions to point out the faults of parents and coaches with children in sports but ultimately, I was faced with a good hard look at my own faults.
Yes, we still have the outcome. My son was offended by the unnecessary, harsh words of his coach.
Now, I acknowledge that I could have approached this situation differently. I could have encouraged my son to speak directly to his coach about this problem.
After all, his coach has admirably dedicated his time and efforts to providing direction for my son and his hockey team. Who am I to expect perfection from someone else when it is my own imperfections that I am so bluntly reminded of daily?
After spending the last week trying to validate my disappointment and trying to justify my response to what I considered unfair treatment, I am left with this:
Although, the canvas of my life has been brilliantly landscaped with powerful beauty, It has also been blemished with mistakes and damaged by my judgements of others. It has been painted over with new beginnings yet continuously marred again by flaws, unfair expectations, and errors.
I hope to begin each new day with a workable canvas knowing that I always come back to the humble reality that I am too flawed to judge and too flawed to expect others to be perfect.
So rather than harbouring grudges I must admit my own weaknesses, make amends, and extend forgiveness, whether someone admits their faults or not. It is in doing this that I hope to teach my son and my other children more than perfection ever could.
You see, that bully on the bench was me. And today, I owe that coach an apology and some expressions of thankfulness for the great things that he is doing.
Thanks to all the many coaches out there who continue to provide guidance and support for our children in sport. It is an extremely challenging job deserving of much more acknowledgement and gratitude than many of us offer.
Lori Q. McGavin is a Saskatoon freelance writer. Her column appears every fourth Friday in rotation with Jessica Iron Joseph, Sharon Thomas and Kevin Joseph.