This Valentine’s message is for my husband, the coach |

This Valentine’s message is for my husband, the coach

Life in Our Mountain Town, Katie Shaffer

I’ve let Valentine’s Day slip by the past few years without writing a tribute to my husband. Last night, while standing in our kitchen, I came upon a tender moment that I think is worth sharing.

My family and I had just arrived home from a recreation league basketball game. My husband coaches a seventh- and eighth-grade girls’ team, on which our daughter plays.

My husband asked me, not sounding like himself because of a stuffy head cold, “What do you think I’m supposed to be learning by coaching another Bad News Bears team?” He seemed a little down, and I didn’t really have an answer for him.

His team had just gotten trounced, this time with a score of something like 36-11.

I’ve written about losing teams before, so to rehash a sore subject is not my intent. I know all about how a parent can be incensed when you know how the teams were formed. Usually you know which parents got overly involved in putting the lopsided teams together.

That’s why my husband is probably coaching this particular team right now. He’s the guy who can take a frustrating experience and still provide encouragement. He believes in each kid. He knows that not every player is as talented as the next, but they’re still worthy.

He sticks with it, he still sees the point of it, and he sees potential in every player.

My husband handles his position as the coach of a losing team with tremendous grace, and I am proud to be married to him.

My husband is a good guy, yet he’s not a pushover. He’s actually capable of being pretty competitive. He played collegiate football, and locally, he plays on men’s recreation league basketball and softball teams, which are both fairly competitive.

When it comes time to drawing even teams, however, somehow, my husband agrees to take a few extra players that show promise, while the other teams get a few extra players that are quite skilled.

Then there are always the players who are sick, especially this time of year, and the players who don’t show up for games because they have other commitments, or the players who don’t come because they’re tired of losing so badly week after week.

That leaves my husband with a Bad News Bears team – a team that you hope may come from behind, but with only three weeks left in the season, it remains is a scraggly and discouraged group of girls.

“I just want to see them keep trying, to give their best effort,” my husband tells me.

“Your players can see that the setup isn’t fair,” I tell him.

I watch them as they stand out on the court, facing five eighth-grade players who all made the middle school team. My husband’s team has one eighth-grade middle school girls’ basketball team player, but she doesn’t come very often, and she wasn’t there last night.

When the parents of the winning team erupt in cheers as one of their players breaks away to stretch the score beyond a 20-point differential, I am miffed. How could they be so insensitive to the girls on my husband’s team, 12- and 13-year-old girls who are being beaten so badly?

My husband does not share my sour grapes, however. He is seated on the bottom row of the bleachers, leaning toward his team, complementing a player when she gets the rebound, calling out for them to execute a certain play. He doesn’t give up.

I’m amazed as I watch him when the game is over, smiling as he shakes hands with the opposing team’s coach.

“It’s just a game,” he tells my daughter. “You’re not going to win every game you play in life.”

“Yeah, but we never win,” she reminds him.

My husband made telephone calls to his team a few weeks ago to let them know when the team picture would be taken. He left a lot of messages on answering machines, and I overheard him saying to each player, “I’d really like to see you in the picture.” When I asked him about this extra line he included to encourage his players to show up, he told me that in past years, it’s disappointing when the team picture comes, and two or three players who were on the team are missing.

His entire team showed up for the picture, even though several were not able to make it to the game played a few hours later.

My husband values his team as it stands, winners or not.

I’m not sure what he’s supposed to be learning as the coach of another Bad News Bears team, but I know what he’s teaching. I wish I could have thought to tell him all this last night.

Katie Shaffer is a Truckee resident. “Life in our Mountain Town” appears every other week in the Sierra Sun.

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