An open letter to Croton parents of kids who are just starting youth sports (this is a letter to the editor of the Gazette, but not everyone subscribes):
Last week I coached my final game for Croton
Youth Lacrosse and will soon be stepping down as President to make room for the
next generation of parent volunteers. My involvement with Croton Youth Lacrosse
has been among the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life, and
based on those experiences, I write to offer some friendly advice to the
parents of children who are just starting in youth sports: coach a team. And if
you can’t coach, find some other way to help.
Coaching youth sports is a big commitment. What
do you have to do? You have to show up. You have to pay attention. You have
figure out a way to get the kids to want to practice. You have to teach them
the game. You have to lift up the kid who’s down on himself and you have to
refocus the kid who’s too cocky. You have to speak gently to some kids and
firmly to others and know which is which. You have to teach them grit and good
sportsmanship at the same time. You have to make schedules. You have to find
someone to cover practice when you can’t make it. You have to find subs when
you’re short of players and you have to thoughtfully allocate playing time when
you have too many. You have to give rides. You have to send lots of e-mails and
texts. You have to deal with opposing coaches. You have to make nice with
referees. You have to set a good example. You have to deal with parents who
live in your town, some of whom love how you’re running the team, and some of
whom hate how you’re running the team. You have to take care of the kid who
gets hurt. You have to bring extra jerseys and pads and mouth guards, because
someone always forgets. You have to rally the team after a loss. You have to
celebrate with the team after a win. You have to reward teamwork and discourage
selfishness. You have to constantly strive to improve. You have to put the kids
first. You have to be patient. You have to listen. You have to be kind. You
have to care.
Is it hard work? Sure. I will confess to
secretly hoping for the occasional rainout, dreading the mad dash from the
office to some remote game location. But after five years, coaching nine
different teams over eight seasons, I wouldn’t trade a single minute of the
time I got to spend coaching. You will get a lot more than you give. You get to
know the kids. You get to know the parents. You get to be a positive influence.
You get to teach. And you get to watch them grow and mature and improve as a
team and as individuals. Volunteer to coach.
Don’t have the time to coach? You can still
help. Aside from practices and games, the administrators of any youth sports
league have to deal with a myriad of issues that take time and commitment to
get right: registrations, gym space, field space, budgets, insurance,
fundraisers, special events, tournaments, referees, rule changes, starter sets,
uniforms, practice jerseys, equipment, practice schedules, game schedules,
field lining, budgets, web-site maintenance, interacting with parents, and on
and on. Each of Croton’s youth sports leagues relies on parent volunteers to
accomplish these things. And they need your help.
If you can’t coach or help with administration,
there’s still a very important way you can help. One of the biggest time drains
for our volunteers occurs when parents don’t respond to notifications. They
miss the registration deadline, they don’t indicate whether their player will
be attending a particular game, they don’t say how many tickets they’ll want
for an event, or they don’t indicate what they’ll bring to a tailgate. When a
parent doesn’t respond to a notification from a coach or an administrator, that
volunteer has to follow up with reminder e-mails, texts and calls to get the
Remember, when you call the registrar to say that you’re sorry,
you missed the deadline, but your daughter really wants to play, you’re talking
to another mom or dad in town who’s busy making dinner when she’s answering
your call and making sure your kid gets to play. Respond to notifications.
Register on time.
I’ve been incredibly lucky. During my time at
Croton Youth Lacrosse, I’ve worked with a precious few kind, caring, dedicated
people who have selflessly donated literally hundreds of hours of their time.
These people are responsible for the administration and coaching of over
five-hundred practices, four-hundred games and twenty-five tournaments over the
past five years. I extend my sincerest thanks to: Mike Anson, Kevin Backus,
Adam Bovone, Chris Burke, Ryan Cunningham, Pat Delasho, Jake Epprecht, Kevin
Geberth, Alicia Goni, Deborah Jillson, Matt Martinez, Pete Martinez, Brian
McCarthy, Mike Minihan, Billy Morrison, Howard Ponzer, Kim Popolizio, Adam
Schmidt, Carl Steinmann, Craig Terboss and Jim and Erin Trapasso. You people
are the best. Bravo.
President (for just a little bit longer)
Croton Youth Lacrosse