It’s the Monday after February break and all but 10 coaches in Maine are feeling the same way I am, what now? For those of us not in the state games, there is no more basketball to coach. No more video to watch, no more games to scout, no more team building, no more practice planning, no more coaching, it’s just over. While you might think there would be a joy for our newfound free time, I find myself with this completely empty feeling.
My season ended over a week ago this year, but this empty feeling has been the same every year I’ve coached regardless of when the season ends. From mid-November until mid-February basketball and my team consume my life. During those three months, basketball takes priority over relationships, friendships, and family.
I’ve missed vacations, weddings, birthdays among many other things because during those three months I’m committed to giving 100% to the 12 to 15 athletes I get the privilege to guide. I spend countless hours watching film, attending games, planning for upcoming games and practices, checking grades, lamenting challenges with my fellow coaches, organizing dinners, planning team-building activities and securing guest speakers. I do all this under the constant criticism and vitriol from disgruntled parents who love to let me know how they would be doing it, that I’m not being fair, that they don’t like my tone, or I don’t care about their kid.
To be honest, the season is mentally draining. The game itself is enough to exhaust anyone between preparation and mentally replaying every game sleep is a luxury that is challenging to find during the season. As coaches though there is so much more to it than the game. You are working with teenagers who are dealing with life’s challenges. You serve as a mentor, tutor, guidance counselor, reference, and life coach all at once. You carry their burden for them at times and try to be a rock as they navigate their life challenges while oftentimes hiding the challenges you yourself are facing.
As draining as it is, there truly is nothing else I’d rather be doing. Coaching is a calling. I do it because I believe in my athletes' unending potential for success both on and off the court. I want them to know they have someone in their life that believes in what they can accomplish. I live for those “ah-ha” moments when you see the light bulb click in an athlete's head and they “get it”. That moment they accomplish something they didn’t think they could accomplish or mature into the leader you knew existed inside. Those are the moments I live for as a coach.
That is why I sit here in a sort of depression here today. When I’m not coaching who am I? What is my purpose if not to be impacting young people? I don’t get to teach any more life lessons to this group and that’s a sad revelation. For my seniors, who have grown so much in our time together, I never get to coach them again. I know they are all going to be amazing and successful people, but I’d give anything for one more practice.
This is the life of a coach. If history holds true the depression will last until about May, when I can start getting excited about summer basketball and the new season. I’m hoping that being open about it will help this year. Maybe some of my fellow coaches feel the same way today. If so, know you are not alone. I get what you are going through and even though you may be reflecting on the season feeling like you failed because you aren’t one of the ten teams left, let me be the first to tell you, you didn’t fail. You committed to do a thankless job and you did it your best day in and day out. While the detractors may be the loudest voices there are those that appreciate your efforts. And if you need to hear it, let me be the first to say I appreciate all you did this season. Whether our paths crossed or not, I know you impacted more young lives this season than some people will in their lifetime and that’s something to be proud of.
State championship winning basketball coach, Chris Woodside, shares his journey of going from varsity boys coach, to becoming a men's college coach, to currently coaching girls varsity basketball as well as life lessons learned on + off the court.