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Dr Edward Hall’s views of his childhood coach, flip 180 degrees in a very powerful and profound letter that challenge me, as both a coach and a parent. Ed is a reasearcher an educator and a really good friend of Non-Perfect Dad. Enjoy his letter. 

Dear Coach,

Thanks for being a good coach! Mum said to write you a letter, because she says I always come home from training smiling. She says it’s important in life to thank people for what they do for us and how they make us feel. I think you’re a good coach because you help our team to win. You tell us what to do better and how to beat the opposition. You’re always organised when we arrive at training, so you must really care, and you know your stuff because you speak to us with confidence. So, thanks again for being a good coach.

 

Signed,

Player (aged 8)

 

[…10 years later…]

 

 

Dear Coach,

I found my decade-old letter to you stuffed in a drawer. Initially, I felt guilty for not sending it, but I’m glad I didn’t because I’ve come to hold a very different view. In fact, I now question the impressions I first formed of you, and those of my Mum, about the “goodness” of your coaching.

All you really focussed on was the team, not us as players and people. I think you prided yourself in being the one to tell us a “winning game plan”. I know this was the case, because you never gave us credit if we made an in-game adjustment to the “game plan”, even if it was the thing that meant we scored or ultimately won. Along with your organised bibs and cones, and the authoritative voice you adopted, I think you were excessively concerned to look in control and credible for your audience. But this mask became transparent when people approached you with alternative ways of thinking and doing or asked deeper questions about how and why that exposed your lack of real understanding about coaching kids.

Feedback was always about you fixing our negatives. I can’t think of a time when I left training feeling that, in your eyes, I’d improved in some way or even been noticed for trying hard. Most of the other players felt similarly anonymous especially those who weren’t part of your compliant “favourites”. Could you explain how, over the years, you celebrated our individual strengths, or supported our personal and collective development needs – I doubt it?!

The team’s successes on the pitch, and your perceived legitimacy as an “ex-player” and “qualified coach”, meant no one questioned you – “they must be good”, people said. My impression of you aged 8 was shaped by this competently acted coaching front, but I’ve seen through it since. Others didn’t and still haven’t. Mum just assumed that you played a central role in the smile I wore, but I’m afraid that was largely down to the post-match hot dogs with my mates and the joy of running around outside on sunny Sundays.

I feel conflicted writing this: you were a well-meaning volunteer; you never did anyone any harm; but, you were just a good coach. Maybe I should put this letter in a drawer too….

 

Signed,

Player (aged 18)

 

Edward is a researcher, educator and consultant who is fascinated by the relational, (micro)political and emotional complexities of sports work. His aim is to work with others to critically examine the opportunities and challenges associated with practice in order to inform and beneficially impact those leading, working and participating in sport and exercise.

Social Media: @EdwardTHall

https://researchportal.northumbria.ac.uk/en/persons/edward-hall