I’ve been coaching for over three years, but this year was quite the learning experience. I have coached toddlers in gymnastics for the past few years, but these past 3 months I’ve been coaching in a drastically different setting. After coaching an 8th grade volleyball team, my main take away wasn’t how to prepare a team to win.
“Only a life lived for others is a life worth living” -Albert Einstein
Out of all things that I could’ve learned as a coach, I aquired selflessness. First things first: 8th grade girls are a handful and a half! I’ve had my expectations of what middle-schoolers were like, but they’re so much more. My girls are in that awkward phase of who they are and who they want to be. All of their moods, from excited to unmotivated, are not only exaggerated but noticeable. At first, it was hard dealing with these unexpected attitudes and energies. My favorite unexpected encounter was when I was telling a girl to hustle after the ball and she says, “I don’t run”. Let me know if you have an idea on how you would’ve reacted to this! This was only the second or third practice. Aside from the multiple humorous mishaps, there were more serious situations such as negative self-talk and overly-confident attitudes. Addressing issues and reacting in a professional yet compassionate way was new for me.
Alongside me were two of my friends I met in college and one of our professors. Our professor knew the drama that comes along with young teens and prompted us to address these issues right away. The three of us started off with having quick team talks on our observations and expectations of this team. We followed up with sit-down talks that lasted up to 20 minutes as these drama-infused girls required uplifting yet chastising words spoken into them. Selflessness played a role as I prayed for the Lord to help me speak words that the girls needed to hear and not words I felt like saying. I continue to pray for these girls in hopes they will come to know and live for God, not for the world. It’s crushing when I hear the things they see online and how it consumes their lives. I pray they see things greater than the star football player or greater than their physical appearance.
Selflessness continues to take me over as I sacrifice my time for a task that doesn’t show immediate results. Driving over an hour twice a week for practices and at least 5 hours of commitment for tournaments on Saturdays turned me into an annoying complainer. And nothing is worse than someone who complains just to complain. I’ve become selfless as I started looking on how I can improve practices or switch up rotations for the benefit of these girls. I stopped looking for something to complain about. I stopped slacking on planning practices. I stopped thinking of better ways I could be spending my ~precious~ time. I started using God’s energy and patience when mine wasn’t sufficient. Results took a few weeks to see, and it was almost breathtaking. My girls have not only acquired more volleyball skills and knowledge, but they have also grown in maturity. I now get chills at tournaments when these girls showcase their energy and upbeat attitudes in comparison to their previous limited motivation and discouraged minds.
I will forever remember what my high school coach said to me back in the day. “You will always learn more life-skills than the sport itself”. I hear nothing but truth in that statement. My favorite proof to this statement is how coachable and willing each of these girls have become–they don’t have to be told to hustle anymore! Coachability and willingness are applicable to future occupations and are necessary for strong relationships. Putting my time and energy into teenage girls, who may never play volleyball again, is only worthy because I am not doing it for myself anymore. I’m no longer doing this just for the experience or money. These girls deserve my heart. My goal is for them to see how much I enjoy being with them. I get excited when I think about what little things they will remember and hold on to and apply to their life.
I will speak words of life and encouragement as I understand the families they come from aren’t uplifting. I am here to showcase who God is–life and love– to those who don’t know Him. Coaching 8th grade volleyball is what it took me for to start living for my God and not for myself.