A couple of days ago I was asked why I dedicate so many hours to coaching youth sports when my children are all young adults and no longer play? I thought a history lesson was in order for my readers as well the listeners of my radio show.
The year was 1975. Gerald Ford was President and the Watergate conspirators were sentenced to prison. Saturday Night Live made its television premiere and the VCR was developed in Japan. The Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl and my beloved Red Sox lost the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. I was 15 years old and I began my coaching career. My first venture into coaching certainly was not as impactful as the VCR or the birth of Tiger Woods. Yet in some small way, I hope it was and continues to be impactful on the lives of the players I’ve coached.
I began coaching due to my passion for sports and, frankly, to make some cash. The program I worked in paid coaches at summer baseball camps and I gobbled up as many hours as possible. I remember the names of the kids who were on my first team and occasionally talk with them. If coaching my first team wasn’t enough pressure, I had the sons of two Rochester Red Wing players, the son of a champion Section V and New York State basketball coach and the son of what was then Rochester’s professional softball team, the Zeniths. Because I did clinics in the morning, we had games in the afternoon and that meant that the families of these kids were at each game. What did I get myself into?
What occurred to me very early on was that I could and would learn strategy but the harder part was developing my style and ways to teach life lessons through sports. Blessed by really good coaches as a player, one in particular, I called upon everything I had been taught and I coached from the heart and not the scorebook. Aside from the years I took off from coaching due to career or becoming a new parent, coaching has always been a part of who I am.
I like to win, make no mistake about it. I like to have league and district championships associated with my name as much as the next guy, but as I tell my players, 30 years from now no one will remember the scores and the trophies will be in the basement. What lasts is the teamwork, the sense of belonging and the life lessons learned on the field, court or ice. Coaching is a privilege and honor. By teaching respect for the game you are teaching lessons that may impact a child today or later when they are an adult.
There is no greater feeling than when an adult with children of their own still calls you coach, comes up and says thanks or sends an email saying they are coaching now, too. I see many of my former players to this day as high school or college athletes, as parents and as business professionals. I never have, nor would claim to be a role model, but the pride I take in seeing them grow as human beings, staying in touch or saying “hello” at the grocery store is something special and rewarding if not humbling in relation to feeling old.
As a mentor of mine who continues to coach into his 70s says, you “get way more out of it than you can possibly put into it.”
Greg Kamp is a 23-year veteran of youth sports as a coach and administrator and is currently the President of Penfield Little League and sits on the board at the District level. He is the host of Youth Sports Now, a weekly radio show on WYSL-AM/FM and also runs Strategy First, his own public relations and marketing business. Contact him at youthsportsradio@rochester.rr.com.