This is a picture of my husband but it's not a picture of my kid. I didn't even know the kid's name until 2 weeks ago and now this image makes me well up with tears every time I've looked at it over the past 24 hours. We just arrived home after a hot weekend of baseball in a town I'd never been to but thoroughly enjoyed. The air conditioner is broken, crankiness in the house is high and the relief of both these issues is hours away.
So why am I sharing with you a picture of a kid that doesn't belong to me in a blog that chronicles snapshots of my family's life? Because Danish Cowboy is a coach. He coached high school football for many years with great passion and fire, took a break to raise his kids to this age, and is now back at it. Although he didn't really take a total break. There are mornings when I have been awake since before dawn, have successfully ingested half a pot of coffee and a lot of heavy cream and intend to complete the second half of my mission and then he wakes up. He walks in to the kitchen, has learned not to pester because words are then spoken, but simply says "you running today?" while his eyebrows are raised. See, he knows that it's best for him, me and everyone around me if I get a few miles in before I venture out in to the world. He's fine-tuned his method to me and it makes me a better person. And he tries to do that with all of the kids' lives that he touches as well.
Danish Cowboy loves sport and loves to see kids succeed so he eagerly agreed to be an assistant coach for our local town baseball team this spring and now for a local boys' All-Star team this summer. I get a kick out of watching him interact with kids, coaches, umpires and fans almost as much as I enjoy watching the kids play. He is a cheerleader, a politician, a teacher, a disciplinarian, and a physical therapist all rolled in to one. He can also jump really high and yell really loud when he gets excited. It's the Irish coming out and it puts up a good fight with the Danish part. "That's baseball, that's baseball," is a phrase we've heard come off that field more times than I can count this season.
It's not roses and sunshine all of the time, though. I know the telltale signs of his nerves getting the best of him (but some things are best kept between me and him). And I know when his chest swells with pride when a kid succeeds after much struggle. And I know that he takes the less fun moments home with him to work them over in his mind and heart.
He's unique to me but not unique in the coaching world. Where would we be without people like this who take these children into their hearts and try to help them succeed, to learn life lessons not only about baseball, but about teamwork, fortitude and practice?
I had the privilege of watching many coaches in action this weekend. It was hot and dry, the days were long and blistering. There were invigorating wins for some teams and a string of heartbreaking losses for others. Heat does funny things to people, kids especially -- they tend to crack a little more easily, to be in need more so when it's hot than other times, but less willing to accept the help. I watched as our coaches, our opponents' coaches and my Danish Cowboy put aside their suffering to hold the beautiful pieces of their teams together through love, tough love, encouragement and passion. And also to tell them countless times to keep drinking water.
And lest we forget what it's all about and why the coaches do this, the kids were pretty amazing, too.
As parents, we all know the tipping point of our children. A coach's job is to test that tipping point, to make the child stronger, to make them believe in themselves and to ignite a flame inside of them to help them be the best they can be in whatever of life's various pursuits they choose. It's really, really hard to hand them off to another adult who we know will push them and test them, but it's also really, really important that we let that happen.