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I had an opportunity recently to watch my dad do one of his favorite things—coach youth girls’ softball. He’s 62 years old, mostly retired, but is jumping back on that ball diamond to raise another generation of softball players. Almost two decades ago he hung up his youth coaching hat after 15 years of coaching two youth girls’ softball teams.

He, like so many other youth coaches, volunteered his time year after year to not only a game he came to love, but to teams and kids he came to love. More often than not, youth coaches dedicate their time and energy to our kids and the youth programs that benefit them without seeing a dime for all their effort and hard work.

While as parents we get to use that extra hour (or sometimes four or more a week) of sports practice to run errands, read, give our brains a break, play on our phones, or get work done, those that volunteer to coach our kids’ teams are typically showing up to the field early after a long day of work to run drills and practice plays to get our kids ready for the next big game.

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While we get to go home and not worry about what’s next until game day or practice, coaches are spending their evenings looking up plays and drills, or doing team bookkeeping and registering for leagues and tournaments.

They’re thinking of how to help our kids get over their recent struggles with the game, and new ways to engage them in the game.

Youth coaches often know how to motivate our kids in a way we may not. They have fine-tuned the craft of getting our kids to listen and think through things to strategize how to be their best.

They teach our kids to not back down, fight for what they want, and quit the whining and just get the job done.

They teach our kids how to accept their losses or failures gracefully and move on from them.

They show our kids that mistakes and losses aren’t the end—they’re just lessons for better success the next time.

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Just as my dad wasn’t a coach to only me and my sisters, youth coaches aren’t just their own kids’ coach, but everyone’s coach. Our kids will encounter youth coaches that will teach them life lessons they won’t ever forget.

Their youth coaches will be a treasure of their childhoods.

Youth coaches throw countless hours year after year into coaching youth sports—all free of charge and simply for the love of the game and for the love of our kids.

Sometimes, as in the case of my dad, their greatest callings in life aren’t the ones they get paid for.

So to all those unpaid dedicated youth coaches: thank you for the unlimited time you have invested in our kids and their love of the game.

Angela Williams Glenn

Angela Williams Glenn writes about the struggles and joys of motherhood on her website Stepping into Motherhood. Her book Moms, Monsters, Media, and Margaritas examines the expectations verse the realities of motherhood in our modern day digital era and her book Letters to a Daughter is an interactive journal for mothers to their daughters. She’s also been published with Chicken Soup for the Soul, TAAVI Village, Bored Teachers, and Filter Free Parents. You can find her on her Facebook page at Stepping into Motherhood.

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