Joining a new team or new sport is tough, and feeling as if your coach is your enemy is a whole other battle. Every athlete needs to learn how to manage a bad coach because you will probably encounter one in your athletic career. The learning lessons will happen through experience and how you approach the situations with a coach or coaches. This is my experience.
In eighth grade, I joined a soccer team called the Del Mar Sharks. My family and I were super excited to be a part of this team, as it was the most competitive one I had ever been on. Our team would be playing against the best, with a coach who was also well-known for his success as an incredible coach that every soccer girl would want to play for, at least that is what I thought.
Off the bat, I noticed my coach had favorites. Most of the team had been together for years, and he made me feel like I was impeding on that circle. I had gone from being a starter and main asset of a team to being lucky to play maybe 15-20 minutes total per game. At first, I brushed it off. I had chosen to challenge myself by going up a level, so I had to earn that respect for playing time, except my hard work and willingness to learn was carelessly dismissed. I would watch my coach direct the other girls in a nurturing manner, like a proud parent wanting to see their kids succeed. He coached me like he had to because I was his athlete, and he was paid to do so. I kept fighting, but my fight was ended with a vast KO shot to my spirit.
The season came to an end, and I was summoned into the coach’s office for my end-of-season review. The coach looked me right in the eyes and told me that I was cut from the team because I was too small. He said that I was too skinny and undersized to compete with the girls on his team.
I was utterly crushed and beyond confused. Any fire I had left in me to continue playing my sport was painfully faint. I realized the emotional damage that this coach had done to me throughout the season, but this was the most significant blow of all. For a moment, the unsettling part was; I believed that he was right; maybe I was too small, and that there was no future for me in this sport.
I started to feel sorry for myself, and yes, those words came to mind, why me? I snapped out of my funk once my parents gave me the “shut up and stop feeling sorry for yourself” speech. I took their advice. I transferred to a different school and adopted a great team with a coach that valued me as an athlete and a person. She helped me reconstruct my confidence, and she helped me grow into a strong runner. In my junior year of high school, I was a starter on the varsity team. I helped my team bring home our school’s first state championship. A year after that, I signed to play at a Division I college. I ended up being one of only two girls from that eighth-grade team to play at the collegiate level and the only one to play at a D1 institution. Look at me now, Coach Goran!
Bad coaches are an uncontrollable and unavoidable aspect of sports. There won’t always be an option to switch teams or transfer to a different institution. They say life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. Grab that 90% by the gonads and seek out a resolution. Search for other resources in your area to help your game, especially if the coach isn’t willing to give you the time of day. My positive outcome was gaining the attributes of perseverance and grit early in my career. Do not let a high school coach define what type of player you will be. Work hard and never give up.
About the Author:
Gabby Scott, currently a track and field athlete for Boulder, Colorado.