It is true; absence does make the heart grow fonder.
After twenty-five years of teaching, a one year trip back in time to the elementary school setting where I began convinced me it was time to move on. So on June 9th it became official and I retired from teaching and reluctantly from coaching. For seventy-five days, according to state regulations, I could not apply for or put in place a public school coaching job.
All I could do is wait for those seventy-five days to pass.
With my mandated seventy-five days now served the place inside me, where my coaching duties once thrived, is as quiet and torpid as a backwoods swamp. There are no game schedules to organize, no Camp Endurance to plan and no line combinations to plot. The last three years has taught me that I miss everything about being a head coach, including the chaos and the challenges and most importantly the rewards. I miss the connection with the players. All of my hundreds of books, binders and piles of practice plans hauntingly beg me to be relevant again.
As I test my patience and witness my hunger to coach again grow, I wonder if players today ever get the opportunity to miss something. We seem to be enamored with the belief today that more is better when it comes to sports. As parents and coaches do we mandate our kids to take time to rest and recover, or do we just keep signing them up for more? I remember listening to Don Lucia, head coach of the Gophers, speak early in his career at Minnesota and talk about taking away his players skates in the spring and mandating they take a break from hockey.
In days gone by our free time as kids was consumed with play. Backyard football, baseball on the sandlot, basketball in the driveway and hockey on the pond filled every changing season. Today the majority of the athletic endeavors are coached up, scoreboard on, full blown competitions. Unlike unstructured play, competition comes with pressure and pressure leads to mental and physical fatigue.
We have replaced play with competitive sports and convinced ourselves it is the same thing. It isn’t.
Competition is draining, it requires recovery time. When I played as a youngster we might have had a dozen games in an entire sport season. Today kids can play that many games in a few weeks. I guess we believe kids today are mentally stronger than years ago.
That was sarcasm.
There is essential value in recovery time and in the hunger that missing something delivers. I can clearly remember the excitement of the new sports season as snow melted or leaves began to fall. Each new sport season brought different yet similar challenges, setbacks and rewards. Switching sports gears, like an accelerating sports car was exhilarating. Most young athletes today never get to experience the eagerness that time away can create.
Sometimes less can truly be more. Time away may create more anticipation and excitement. Absence can build passion and purpose. Sometimes we don’t learn how much something means to us until it is gone. If your athlete is giving you that glassy-eyed look of indifference when it is time to go to their next practice or game, maybe it is time they took a designed break.
As parents you have the power to make that happen. It will require you to embrace common sense and ignore the extreme tendencies of those around you. Taking a break has the ability to increase your desire and playing another sport will enhance your athletic ability.
The changing of the seasons is upon us again. With it comes the opportunity to change the full throttle approach to your child’s sports experience. Take a break, not only will it charge your athletes batteries, it will do wonders for yours too.
I am living proof of that!
Dan Bauer is a free-lance writer, retired teacher & hockey coach in Wausau, WI. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org