In Coaching: Good/Bad/Unfair, Problems in Youth Sports

Hey coach, how come you won’t ever let anyone on the team be sick or injured? Why do I always feel like a wuss whenever I’m in pain around you? How come I feel like I have to go out of my way to hide how I’m really feeling physically or else you’ll get upset?

You see, I’m confused here coach. I REALLY want you to like me. I DESPERATELY want you to respect and believe in me. I need your approval to help me feel good about myself. But then, when I don’t feel good physically or get hurt, you seem to get mad at us, as if we’ve done something really bad! And then you take your approval away! It makes me want to ignore my body and pretend every thing is OK just so you’ll think I’m tough!

Perhaps it might have to do with that look you always give me and my teammates whenever we show that we’re hurt in any way. Then again, it just might have something to do with that verbal lashing you gave Jaime last week when he came to you and told you that he couldn’t pitch because his arm was too sore and his doctor had recommended that he shut it down for a month and not pitch at all. What was it that you said to him exactly in front of all of us? Oh yeah, “You’re kidding me, right?! Your arm is sore?! Where’s your toughness son?! What’s wrong with you that you can’t pitch through a little soreness?” Come to think about it, it wasn’t so much the words you said to him that bothered me as much as your tone of voice and that disgusted look you gave him, as if you thought he was somehow weak and was faking it!

And coach, there’s another thing that confuses me here. Why do you sometimes call us “girls” when you’re angry or frustrated with us because we can’t do something you think we should? Like, if we complain about needing a drink when it’s hot or we get bad stomach cramps when running those suicide sprints, you call us “little ladies.” Coach, I have two sisters. Are you telling me that I’m like my sisters because I’m running too slow or I get stomach pains and have to stop? Do you mean, to be a girl is to not be tough?

Coach, I really, really want you to see me as tough. Heck, I’d be willing to hide any pain or injury if it means that you’ll then give me your approval. But, sometimes the pain is so bad that I can’t shut my body off. That really makes me angry at myself and leaves me feeling ashamed, like I let you down!

But it’s confusing to me. Like when Billy collided with the other team’s catcher trying to slide into home and got knocked cold, why did you immediately tell him, “Just shake it off! You’re fine son, there’s nothing wrong with you!” And then you got mad at him when he complained about feeling dizzy and didn’t want to go back in the game. Coach, how did you know he was OK? Are you a doctor? And coach, did you know that he actually sustained a concussion in that collision? He couldn’t play for two weeks!

Coach, I hate that I feel so scared and guilty whenever I’m around you and I’m not feeling good? I so want you to respect me. I so want to make the starting line-up. I want you to see me as tough. But what am I supposed to do when I get hurt and I can’t “suck it up” the way you always tell us and “just play through it!?” Does that really make me weak?? Do you really want me to completely ignore my body and how I’m actually feeling? Is that what will make me tough?


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