If Your Sports’ Coach Hates You, Love Him

When bad sports coaches won`t select a young player then the player needs to act with passion

Photo by Dan Myasnyankin on Unsplash

If you`re not being picked for a team you need to decide where your passion for the game lies because it’s the passion that makes your decision a simple one.

In writing about this topic it awakens my passion for sport and many memories of being treated unfairly by coaches. I`ve had the experience in life where I was not being picked when I, and even my teammates, knew I should have been picked for a team, but I wasn’t. It’s a very hard thing to take at the time. All these years later, when I recall certain moments of how I was treated it still brings up unwelcome emotions.

Of course, many people will assume that it depends on what age a player is before they should decide on quitting playing a game or not, but I don’t buy into this theory at all.

Having gone through rejection from sports coaches on more than one occasion and even now as I write I realize that there are numerous examples I can give from my experience, never the less I’ve decided on one that began the hurt for me.

From this experience, I now think the central cloud that is over any player’s decision-making process to stop playing a sport at any time must challenge their underlying passion for the game. If a player is thinking about giving up because they are not being given game time they must passionately realize that it comes down to both ‘identity’ and ‘empathy’.

The Identity of Sport:

For me when I was growing up sport meant everything. I grew up in a sporting environment where our family business meant people flocked to play the sport that we provided. I spent hours there after school, on weekends, and on holidays talking about sport, learning from others, and advising people on how best to get the best from their game. In the evenings after school, I`d go and play the sport myself and that’s’ where I pushed myself to compete and improve to the best of my ability whilst looking forward to the weekend game and the team selection. Even our school was mad on sport as it was an all-boys catholic school and many of us dodged academic classes by being involved with several teams so playing games was a daily ritual.

So growing up it was 24/7 a sporting life until suddenly one man stole my sporting identity.

A Sports Coach Being A Bully:

I was twelve years old when I first got made an example of by a sports coach and I knew even then that he was very wrong in the way he abused mine and the team’s trust. Although I had played very well in the first few weeks of the year and I was being primed for team captaincy by some of my teammates, the coach never took to me. At the time, I didn’t know why that was.

Now I know why this was and it was nothing to do with me or my ability or commitment to his team.

I know now that other things were going on in that coach’s life and he was using his power as a coach to try to make him feel better about some aspect of his life that he felt he could not control. Essentially, he toyed with and bullied certain players on his team to make him feel better at that time in his life.

Cunningly, he waited for all the older sporting boys to merge by the school lockers before loudly denouncing any chances that I would have of playing for his team. He raised his voice and smirked at older players to show he had the power and in a few moments ruined my self-esteem and perceived identity.

Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

A Young Player’s Self Doubt Brought On By Bad Coaching:

At the time I couldn’t believe it. I thought:

Why won’t he let me play?

and

What did I do wrong?

Many questions and no answers swirled throughout my mind. I felt imprisoned in self-doubt and I was surrounded by much older lads who I respected and wanted to be respected by for playing sport. My ambitions were that I wanted to play with these older guys in years to come. But now, because of the unfairness of one coach, they felt I had done something wrong or simply wasn’t good enough when looking back all these later, nothing was further from the truth.

At that time it played with my head as my whole life was identified by my sporting know-how and ability.

Passion Improves Performance:

For the whole year that followed, I vowed to improve and to prove the coach wrong. Although I did improve, unfortunately later in the year when we reached the final he still insisted on leaving me on the bench. We had a good team and we were poised to win for the first time in many years at that age group. All the school was excited and the coach was getting many plaudits for getting the team so far.

By half time we were being beaten by over 20 scores as I sat on the sideline alone. Then, it all changed.

Leadership From Others:

Thankfully, a parent who had much more knowledge of the game stepped in. He was a highly respected man within the game. His sons were great players for the school and one of his sons, who was one of the team’s better players, was having a horrible game and was even crying by half time such was the embarrassment of losing by so much. Something had to be done, and that father did it well.

The father of my teammate had seen me playing well earlier on in the school year before the coach had cast me aside. He knew that I had the ability and decided to kindly advise that I should not only be brought on to the team but, that I should be given a prominent role within the lineup. This meant his son could be switched to another position to give him more freedom to play. This was the new plan for the second half, and on paper, it looked like a much better tactical mission than the initial starting lineup decided on by the team coach.

Of course, in the second half we still had one big problem as we were 20 scores down, but, we made a comeback!

We outplayed the other team and came within a whisker of winning the game. Unfortunately, the referee never played much, if any, injury time and we ended up losing by one point.

Still, it reinforced my confidence that I was good enough for the team and allowed me to know that the coach was not coaching fairly.

Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash

Empathy Trumps A Coaching Bully:

One of the greatest lessons here is that if a young person is not picked to play, empathy can make things better.

If that father hadn’t shown empathy towards his son he wouldn’t have thought about intervening in the team’s lineup. Although he knew his son was a good player, somewhere in his mind, he had taught about my good performance earlier on in the school year. He had thought outside of his own son’s importance to the team and thought about how others could perform too.

By the time the final game came, he watched the game from the stand objectively and thought about all the other players on our team and how they were feeling. He knew that he could turn this feeling around.

This was a simple act of empathy in sport.

Although was only 12 years old I felt that I was always more than good enough for the team. It challenged me, but I knew deep down that the coach was wrong and that I was right. The final game proved that. That feeling I had deep down was aided by the fact I started cognitively wondering:

Why won’t he pick me for the team?

I realized that there was no legitimate reason. After all, I was the most committed player on the team, went to more training sessions than anyone, and even my teammates and some older players told me that I was good enough.

This is what sustained me to keep trying, asking ‘why?’ and looking into things from the coach’s point of view. And he was wrong.

Years later, I found out information about the coach that proved my suppositions as a twelve-year-old. Back when I was that age the coach had been going through a rough time in his personal life. He had indeed been making judgments and decisions that were emotionally fueled by knock-on happenings in his own life at the time.

Sporting Passion is Bigger Than A Bully :

My experience had led me to realize that sport is bigger than any bully, even if they happen to be the coach of a team. If you are not being picked for a team and you don’t know how it’s understandable that at a young age you don’t feel confident or equipped enough to communicate your feelings by asking why you are not on a team. In reality, other adults have to step in and see this unfairness.

But you need to continue to show passion. If you truly have a passion for the sport then you’ll realize that your bad experience will not stop you from continuing to be involved in the game.

In the end, a bully never wins, but the player can outsmart the bully and beat him at his own game.

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Dr. Conor Hogan Ph.D.

Dr. Conor Hogan Ph.D.

Forbes, INC. & Entrepreneur Magazines, CBS, & NBC Featured, Dr. Conor Is The World’s Leading High-Performance Neuro Socio-Psychologist & Co-Authored 4 Books