The Pre-Season Team Meeting – Coming Full Circle

19 Sep

Last night, I accompanied Ben to a meeting for boys interested in playing high school basketball this winter. Whoa – what a throwback for me! And what an incredible experience to be the parent in the crowd, listening to a coach, who sounded oddly familiar – almost as though he once sat through one of my own long ago pre-season meetings…


A little background for those who might not know my history….


I coached a highly competitive and quite successful cheer team for thirteen years in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Every year, prior to the start of our season, I ran a mandatory meeting for the athletes and their parents to go over my rules and expectations, our shared responsibilities and my vision for the athletes and my program. (Mandatory meant that if you didn’t show up, your daughter – no matter how talented – could not tryout.)


Because my expectations were very high, there were sometimes parents in those meetings who either were completely taken aback or downright confrontational. I will never forget when one parent raised his hand after I had been speaking for a short time and asked angrily “Is this the military or cheerleading?” I wanted to sink into the floor. Somehow, my heart, which was beating loudly and furiously, didn’t betray me as I answered in false bravado “I understand your concerns, sir, and what I can tell you is that if this isn’t the right place for your daughter, I respect that and will help you find an activity that is better suited.”


Just as he was about to come at me for a second round, one of the moms who had been my program for a few years stood up. She put her hand out to shut me up, turned to the (grumpy) man and said, “Sir –my third daughter is going through Terri’s program. My daughter’s have learned self-respect, responsibility and the kind of life lessons we could have never taught them alone.” By this time, I wanted to die….of relief, embarrassment and gratitude. And then the most amazing thing happened….one by one, other parents of returning athletes stood up and shared what positive lessons and things their daughters had gotten from our program and from me. It was surreal.


The meeting was over. The (terribly mortified) girl tried out (she was a joy, by the way) and her seemingly ‘mean old man’ turned into a big old teddy bear and became one of our biggest supporters. Whew! I still get overwhelmed when I think of the kindness of those parents. But that night taught me an even bigger lesson – and that was that as coaches (and teachers and neighbors and friends), we can usually have a momentous effect on other people’s kids. We can, and should, back up the good stuff that parents are trying to convey at home. As parents, we know – or we should know by now, that we have about 12 words or 30 seconds to get a message across to our teens. After that, they tune us out. But they hear parts of what we say – and when it is confirmed, reinforced and insisted on by another trusted adult, they are much more likely to heed our (usually) sound advice or opinions.


So, as I sat among a small cluster of parents that had attended Ben’s meeting last evening – and I wish it had been mandatory for all parents – I watched my son take in all this great information and sometimes watched him glance at me in warning and alarm. Not from what was being said, but in fear that when Coach said that every player will be guilty by association when it comes to being at a party where alcohol is being consumed and must leave that party immediately, I might stand up and shout “Amen, Brother!” And when he stated that he’s not here to make NBA players, but to make great men, I could possibly get up on a chair and yell “You got that right, Coach!!” and when he talked about leaving your egos and fears at the door and just coming in and playing your heart out, I would jump up on the table and say “See, Ben – I DO know what the hell I’m talking about!! ” And “I love you Coach!”


But, I didn’t embarrass my son….I sat there with a huge smile on my face, hoping that Ben was taking in the supplementary words that, of course, we have tried to teach him. I prayed that he would work even harder to make his Freshman team so that this great guy could back us up further, as he talked about the importance of academics, time management and being a great teammate.


And I do believe in my son…I believe in what he can do going forward and I hope I can help him leave his fear at the door when he begins to play with others who have played together for so long. As our impressive Coach stated to every boy sitting there last night, “You can be part of the future or part of the past.” I’m excited to see what my 14 year old does with his future…

2 Responses to “The Pre-Season Team Meeting – Coming Full Circle”

  1. Gayle Gold September 19, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    Beautifully said, Terri. I love reading your blog! Xo

  2. Mary Kay September 19, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    I remember doing meetings with parents but until I heard you speak about what should be represented to parents at a meeting, our program had no substance without getting the parents to buy into your ideas. This brought back great memories of kids I coached, parents I worked with, and of course working with some great other coaches.

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