Trophies, Tokens, and Dust


"It’s not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings." 

—Ann Landers  


If you are reading this post, there is a very good chance you have some shelves and/or a wall in your home like the one you see in the background of this photo. If you are reading this post, it’s my guess you have a handful of plaques picturing a small tribe of community humans who became teammates, friends with your offspring, lined up in neon colored jerseys, toothless grins and painted Mohawk hairdos. 

If you are reading this post, find yourself on the plaque. There you are, to one side of the tribe, feet astride, holding part of the banner, looking the part of parent-coach, wide smile because you just loved that your little champs chose, “The Chartreuse Hufflepuffs” over other, more mundane team names. Jersey color determines all, don’t it though? I can remember promising my young Devaney student-athletes I’d be first to the meeting, and finagle my way to the duffles for early pickins in uniform distribution.  

These things mattered, they did. They became the foundation for the shelves and walls that tell the stories of our journeys, as athletes, parents of athletes, assistant coaches, head coaches, referees, board members, snack moms, hotel-securing dads. Families committed to a certain lifestyle choice we tell ourselves will offer THEM choice down the road, for the sacrifices we were willing to make.   

When we begin this adventure with our children, we set out to offer the best of what we, ourselves have been shaping over our lifetimes. We bring our childhood experiences—painful or triumphant; our coaches—damaging or life changing; our family members—disengaged or hovering; our teammates—entitled or supportive.

All of it! Comes along for the ride when we first raise our hand to hop on the youth sports, volunteer, all hands on deck train. Unavoidably, we are, each of us transformed. As an individual, a family, a community. The School of Life opens more fully, and we are at the chalkboard, doling the lessons. It’s privilege. Nothing short.   

Somehow, picking up the clipboard for the first time quickly becomes a long ago, “Where did THAT go!?”   

Practices roll into weekends, roll into seasons, roll into years. As if at once, shelves and wall space become covered with tokens and images of that lifestyle choice you made to offer this particular set of lessons, discipline, challenge, growth to your young student-athletes. Perhaps you hung it up as coach after a few seasons; giving other parents a chance; or just doing what seemed necessary to protect the health of relations among your tribe. Perhaps you were just that dialed in—the parents liked you, the kids responded, and your own child kept sayin’, “Ya, it’s cool. You can still be my coach.”  Perhaps you were afforded the privilege of working with all of your children; and got to see the development first hand; all the while, expanding your skill set as an educator, coach, parent, human. Eventually, suddenly sooner rather than later, our offering as parent/coach/mentor culminates. Most of the time, we don’t even see that moment for what it is. Our mission is complete. We hand them over to other voices and leadership. New coaches, programs, quests will shape and determine their decision making as young adults. With a modicum of luck, these mentors prove worthy and wonderful.    

If not, take heart. You did what you could in the time you had. You stepped up.You showed up. Clip board, cones, pinnies, whistle and all. Your continued decision to do so taught them, showed them! what it means to be a successful and contributing member of a community. These are the goods, are they not?   

True! The shelves become cluttered, and the pictures, plaques and trophies collect dust. Feather brush those puppies off from time to time; and remind yourself the power of the example you set on this profoundly important leg of their journey.  

Well done folks. Well done.