As a Strength and Conditioning Coach, I like to walk down the halls after school and think about the daily workout, when today I saw a former student. I broke into a small sweat as the recent incident at Arapahoe High School flashed through my mind.
I know the student very well. He is smart, funny, athletic, and a occasionally a pain in my ass. He is one of those kids that has class clown tendencies (I have to admit, sometimes I’d break down and laugh at his antics too) a decent athlete when he is disciplined, who is probably too smart for his own good. But underneath I saw the insecurity I see in many high school athletes, but with a temper to boot.
I saw the change happen. It wasn’t drastic, but rather a slow and gradual decline. One day it was too much goofing off. A few days later, it turned into disappearing 5 minutes too long at the water fountain. A week or two later, he was skipping instructions. Then finally his insecurity grew into outright disrespect.
“Either you do what you’re asked, or you can leave.”
Chilled silence, followed by a muttered phrase and a cutting look a second later….
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a kid get lost, or told them to leave. Things happen to kids. Divorce, too much school work, even tragedy. Reports from other coaches were similar, reporting laziness and obstinacy, and in my heart there was disappointment that I’d lost one.
I’ve learned the hard way in coaching that consequences should be fair and transparent, and respect and discipline aren’t a request, but a requirement when coaching high school kids. Not for one second did I second guess my decision. Until today.
We made eye contact. My fears briefly went through my mind, “Is he mad? Was I too hard on him? Does he want to SHOOT ME?”
In that moment, I swallowed hard. And before another question could pop up, I told myself to shut up. I stood my ground, looked him in the eye and with a quick smile said, “Hi”, which I’m pretty sure shocked us both while we kept going our own ways.
I walked to my students, and I felt relief. I made a good choice. Instead of being fearful of repercussions or outcomes, I silenced my doubts to do what he needed from me as a coach. He wanted to be seen.
A little way into the workout, I noticed movement in the corner of the room. Slow and mopey, the kid walked upHim: Hi Me: Hi. What’s up?
Him: I just wanted to come by.
Me: Do you want to talk?
The conversation was short. After a few bungled explanations, admissions, and heart breaking authenticity, I asked, “Is this your apology?”. After he adamantly said, “Yes, I’m sorry” there was a wash of relief in both our faces.
This confrontation couldn’t have happened at a better time. I needed a reminder that my fear of what could happen falls second to what needs to be done. That in the face of my own fears, there are those who need me to do what is hard. It was a kick in the butt to realize that I needed to shut up my fears, and show up for those who need me.