HAVE YOU HUGGED
YOUR COACH TODAY?

   Iíve been coaching kids for about 17 years. Basketball, baseball, soccer, and now tennis. And Iím depressed.
   Itís not the first time Iíve been depressed, and it probably wonít be the last. It comes with the territory, and I hate it.
   Most people donít understand, including the players. I realized this years ago, when the other team scored the winning run in the bottom of the last inning, thereby handing us a devastating loss in the first round of the Ross Valley Little League Playoffs.
   My assistant coach and I were despondent. We sat down in the dugout, our dreams of winning the championship shattered by a lucky, fluke hit.
   "How are the kids taking it?" I asked, my head down, thinking what I would say to them to help ease their pain.
   He motioned towards the outfield grass. "Theyíre doing cartwheels out in center field."
   Oh.
   Kids have a way of handling defeat a little better than I do. The kids Iím now coaching are in high school, and they take heartbreaking losses a little harder than they did in Little League. It might be an hour or two before they forget about it. Maybe even a whole night.
   Not me. Iím pathetic. My tennis team, the #1 seed in the season-ending tournament, lost last week to a team that we would beat 29 out of 30 times. It was a huge upset, caused by bad coaching, bad playing, and bad luck. Our season was over, two weeks prematurely, and I was distraught.
   I told the story of our heartbreaking loss to my mother, who was preparing for surgery. I told the story to my business partner, who was about to visit one of our ex-managers who was in the hospital with Stage Four cancer. I told the story to a friend of mine whose wife died unexpectedly a few months ago, leaving him to raise their four kids alone.
   Poor me. They were all very sympathetic. And Iím sure they were all thinking the same thing, something on the order of "Get a life."
   That didnít stop me. Iíd corral anyone who would listen, and tell them my tale of woe. Iíd think of nothing else, not by choice, but by habit. Iíd replay points in my head, visualizing different outcomes. "If onlyÖ.if onlyÖ.if onlyÖÖ"
   Iíd look at my watch, note the time, and imagine where weíd be if we had won. Iíd start to plan a practice in my head until I depressingly realized there were no more practices. We had lost, and it was over.
   It was the saddest thing Iíve ever seen. Not the loss, but my reaction to it. People were dying, homes were being lost, marriages were breaking up, and I was consumed with a high school tennis teamís loss.
   And I was the only one. My 17 year old son, who plays on the team, was over it by the next day. When I told him I was still struggling with the loss, he looked at me like I was wacko. He had moved on.
   My wife was more sympathetic. She heard me out before telling me to "get over it." Another friend assured me that I was the only person in the world still thinking about it. And almost everyone thought I was being ridiculous.
   And I am being ridiculous. Itís just a game. In the great scheme of things, it means very little. But when you see a coach moping around after a devastating loss, give him or her a break. Good coaches, whether theyíre coaching the New York Yankees or the Ross Valley Tigers, put their heart and soul into their team. And as silly as it sounds, it hurts when you fail, even though itís just a game.
   On behalf of my fellow coaches, I appreciate your understanding. Iím starting to feel better already. Did I hear someone mention something about an earthquake in China?
 

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