I have come across many hard-ass coaches throughout sports my entire life. There was nobody more intense than my college football coach, who once told me, “this (football) is a business!” as he referred to the scholarship Pace University was giving me to play there.
A few years ago, my 12-year old son (now 16) had a baseball coach that would pressure kids to perform in high school because, as he would say, “in college baseball they won’t tolerate this.” I felt like he often pressured the kids with “the future.” Do this now or else in college… Do this now in college or else when you’re playing minor league baseball… Do this in minors or else when you make it to the majors… etc. etc. I felt like, on top of the demands of schoolwork and life as an adolescent (which ain’t easy… ask my Mom & Dad, hahaha), this coach was adding pressure, anxiety, stress (and maybe even to depression) in the name of “winning.”
I said to myself, “damn, if I ever become a baseball coach, I will make sure to not forget that kids need to enjoy the game.” Kids need to live in the present. Kids need to savor (i.e. Professor Laurie Santos, Yale University… thanks!!!) the game today, without worrying about tomorrow or the next day.
I was determined to prioritize “Fun, Learning, and Values (like Positivity, Gratitude, Empathy, Sportsmanship & embracing your weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and mistakes as strengths and building blocks for improving)” … and then “Winning.” Winning at life seemed so much more important than winning the game.
Fast forward. I got that chance to serve as coach. I saw first-hand up-close the real challenges kids have with anxiety and depression. I saw how their condition worried parents. I channeled the energy I got from the urgency and need to help these kids in our community — towards a community-wide fight that was being waged by a group of homeowners against installing lights for night games at our local little league baseball and softball fields.
After some meetings with the community (see video below). I ended up addressing our county legislators and decisionmakers. [It was my second time doing so after having done so in the past for our teachers, “World Class (Public) Education.”
As a result (and due to an incredible joint-effort), we got unanimous approval from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors — the governing body of one the wealthiest, largest, most expansive counties in the United States of America.