Don’t think about signing up to coach youth sports, just do it

Published 10:37 am Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Regret is a heck of an emotion that we’re forced to live with and I’m hoping if you’re reading this, especially if you are a parent with young children that love playing recreational sports, you’ll heed my advice and not have the type of regret that I’m dealing with.

A couple weeks ago, my son wrapped up his spring soccer season and in doing so, finished up his career of playing recreational sports between grades 1-6.

He’ll be a seventh grader next year and he’ll soon try out for teams at his next school, but I couldn’t let his final season finish up without thinking back on the joy derived from coaching him and his friends, especially over the last couple years.

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If I could do it all over again, I would have coached in some capacity on every team he ever suited up for. That’s my message for parents with children younger than mine, coach your kids.

Even when you don’t feel qualified, sign up to coach them.

You’ll thank me later.

Here is me being completely transparent, I did not always like the parents that coached on the sports teams of my youth. My dad was too busy living the unpredictable life of a logger to be at a ballfield or gym for afternoon practice.

And so many times, there were men and women who led the teams I played on and did so with kindness and enthusiasm and skill.

No one is perfect though and you’d occasionally see the type of dad who’d threaten to beat his kid after a poor pitching performance or the parent who started their offspring above a more talented player. And as a kid, that makes a pretty big impression on you.

Some of the teams that I most enjoyed playing on were coached by volunteers that did not have children on the team.

And I reminded myself of that when my son was playing Upward Basketball or flag football or soccer through the Brookhaven Recreation Department over the past few years.

“They don’t need me,” I’d tell myself when the thought of coaching entered my mind. Another excuse I’d like to use was how busy I was, as I commuted nearly an hour back and forth to work during many of those years.

And then, I had a conversation with a friend that coaches every team his kids ever play on, if possible.

He did not have a strong father figure in his life until his mama got remarried. He played on teams all his life coached by other people’s dads, and he had made it his mission to coach his kids and their friends with all the skill and enthusiasm that he could provide, which is substantial as he has always been a great athlete.

My excuses for not coaching in the past felt weak and I signed on to volunteer as an assistant for the pee-wee football and basketball teams that my son played on in fifth grade.

I won’t lie and say there weren’t times where the ugly parts of youth sports didn’t rise up, but I can take someone yelling from the bleachers for their kid to get the ball better than most, as coaching is something I used to do for a career.

I didn’t find myself wanting to coach less after that year, I found myself wanting to coach more.

As a sixth grader, I assisted with two basketball teams he played on and coached the aforementioned soccer team. Thanks to my great friends Lance and Juliana for letting me help with hoops.

I don’t think the memories that my boy and I made this year will ever fade. On a Saturday morning in a Lipsey basketball game, one of our players grabbed a rebound with four seconds left and dribbled the length of the court to hit a running shot at the buzzer and force overtime of a game we went on to win.

We were high fiving and chest bumping like we’d knocked off the Lakers.

My kids in the Upward League all got better as the season progressed through drills and practice and the same could be said for the members of our soccer team.

To see kids grow in confidence and smile when they make a good play and to see them learn how to win with class and to lose without shaming the game, it just gives you a buzz of electric joy as an adult.

And it made me think of my buddies who’ve talked to me over the years when they were in a similar season of life.

My neighbor and friend Prentiss would tell me about the rec soccer powerhouse he coached, and my buddy Chad would recall peewee basketball battles between his team and a team from another area school and I could see their minds being flooded with the memories of the fun that had been had.

And then your kids get older, and that season of life moves on to another one. Your child will move up to play junior varsity or varsity sports and pee-wee and rec league are left behind.

And high school sports are awesome, but they lack an innocence that comes with a bunch of fourth graders badly playing a game of basketball.

I’m grateful I have the memories from these last two years, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I wish I had more.

And that’s the charge for any younger parents reading this, don’t let the chance to make those memories pass you by.

The memories I collected this year with my son Graham through the Navy basketball team at Lipsey and the Trailblazers in Upward basketball and the Gold team in U12 recreation soccer are priceless, matchless and will be held in my heart for a long, long time.

Cliff Furr is the sports editor at The Daily Leader. He can be reached via email at