79: Coach Dad

79: Coach Dad

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

Coach Dad

My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.

~Jim Valvano

I was always told that no matter what, family will always be with you, which was very true. But I guess you could say this: my dad took it to a whole new level.

It started in kindergarten. Mom and Dad thought it would be fun to get me signed up for some sport and that it would be good for me. So when the soccer signup sheets went home, my parents had them filled out and sent back in by the very next day. And then there was an even better part—Dad would coach. I can’t even begin to describe how excited I was that Dad would coach.

The season went by and I had warmed up to the idea of Dad coaching even more. He and I were convinced that soccer was “my” sport. So he signed me up for summer leagues, only to find out that Dad wouldn’t be coaching. This led to massive devastation.

I’d repeatedly told him, “Daddy, you have to coach!” And he’d respond with something like, “I wasn’t asked to” or some other excuse that I only saw as another reason to ask.

I don’t know what did it, but after much begging and many tears, Dad was assistant coach.

The coaching thing stuck, I guess, because when I was in first grade, soccer season rolled around again and Dad was coaching.

He was loud, and I’d get mad at him for yelling at me. One game, he even promised me he wouldn’t yell. When he broke his promise, I stopped in the middle of the field and yelled back, “YOU PROMISED YOU WOULDN’T YELL!!”

But I never stayed mad for too long.

When fourth grade rolled around, we were finally old enough to play basketball. After tryouts, and when I found out which team I was on, Dad coached that too. But it wasn’t the same as it was in kindergarten. I would get mad if he tried to correct me; he’d get mad if I didn’t listen.

Soon, it was getting to the point where I didn’t want him to coach.

But he did.

This went on through fifth grade, sixth, seventh, and all the way up to eighth. We’d argue, and there’d be the occasional “I hate you,” a few tears here and there, and the times I promised myself I’d never talk to him again. Yet, no matter how many times I told myself, “Don’t talk to him! You’re mad at him remember?” I’d talk to him anyway, and the fight would disappear.

It got worse as I got older, because I realized I didn’t love basketball, and I didn’t love soccer. I didn’t have a passion for it any more. And I always felt like nothing I did would be good enough for him. It seemed as if nothing would please him. I felt especially angry when he’d talk about how great the other kids did on the ride home and say little or nothing about me. Or, if he did talk about me, he’d mention all the negative things. Even though he meant it as constructive criticism, I didn’t take it that way.

When eighth grade rolled around, I joined basketball. Much to my dismay, I ended up having a fun time on the team, and argued with Dad—more than ever.

But when soccer signups came, he let me sit this year out. He told me it was because he didn’t want to coach anymore. Dad didn’t want to coach?!

Our last basketball game was a sad one. It was the last time he’d be known as “Coach Dad” to me. He brought it up, with much sincerity and sadness, and I’d just smile and say, “Oh, I know,” and brush it off, determined not to show him that I might actually be upset that he wouldn’t coach any more.

The season ended, and “Coach Dad” had, in a way, “retired.”

All sports-related activities had ended for me. Well, except for one—the Sports Recognition Night. My school did it every year—the coach would call up the player, say something about him, the player would get a shirt, and then they would sit down. They handed out about six awards that night.

I was totally dreading the whole thing. First of all, I wasn’t expecting any awards, and secondly, I really didn’t want to hear what my dad would say. But I was glad that sports were finally over for me.

As the ceremony wore on, the different coaches talked about the players and told funny stories. The audience laughed, applauded, laughed, applauded, and the night went on like that for some time.

Then, came my turn.

I stood up, pretended not to care, and tried to play it cool. I took my grand old time getting up to the stage. “C’mon, hustle!” Dad cried jokingly. The audience laughed. I couldn’t help but smile, since he’d been yelling that to me for the nine years he coached me.

When I got up to the stage, I prepared myself for the story he had written. I had known for a fact that Dad had written a pretty lengthy story. In fact, he had written about two instances.

He began. “You know, when I first started coaching, I knew it would be hard on Adam—“ His voice faltered. “I knew it would be—“ His voice faltered once again. His lip quavered and he put his hand up to his eyes. The audience gasped.

My mouth dropped and my eyes welled up with tears. Why? Because Dad was doing something I’d never seen him do, something I never imagined he was capable of doing because, well, he was Dad.

Dad was crying.

He set his paper down, looked at me directly in the eyes, and said the six most meaningful words ever spoken: “I am so proud of you.” He and I broke down crying and he grabbed me in a big, strong hug. I left the stage, still in tears, but somewhat happy.

Throughout those nine years, even though I said I hated him and didn’t want him to coach... I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I felt like I had finally lived up to his expectations, but I knew all along that I had, in everything I had done.

I knew this because he loved me enough to give up his time to coach me.

And he loved me enough to say how much he loved me in front of everyone.

~Adam Patla

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