The season started out like any other, we spent some time in the off season having get togethers, doing some community service, and mostly working out together to prepare. There was a lot of reason to feel as though we had a great season ahead, we had a veteran returning defense, good senior leaders, and a lot of young guys working hard to get better. Like so many other things however, players individual situations always interact with others and a promising young returning varsity defender I’ll call Patrick, found himself a bit estranged from the rest of his defensive teammates due to an off season injury that kept him out of tryouts and the week after those tryouts as we were putting things together. The mantra on our team is “next man up” and a backup senior who had worked hard to improve in the off season worked his way into the line up while all Patrick could do was watch and wait. When Patrick returned he pushed hard to become the player we witnessed in his sophomore year, but I could tell he was pushing too hard and not letting the game come to him. I spoke with him briefly a few times and looked forward to how he would respond as the season wore on. I was fully confident that he would be back to form by the middle of the season when we needed him to be and I went about tending to the needs of the other players.
As the season started the wins were not coming for a variety of reasons but mainly because of my philosophy of “if you want to be the best, you need to play the best” and unfortunately our first 5 games included 3 of the top ten teams in the state and we didn’t beat any of them. Regardless, it has always been my feeling that those experiences are beneficial for a young mans growth and in the end will serve him well so I try to stay positive and keep them working hard and pulling together. That said, what normally happens did happen and some parents began to question the philosophy out load, but certainly out of range of my ears. The problem with this is obvious to all who are reading this post, parents who stir up malcontent in the stands cannot help but bring that home to their kids, and when kids who love their parents are forced to choose they often get confused and question their own commitment to what they are doing.
I couldn’t know at the time what was going through Patrick’s head or if his parents were influencing his thought process at all, all I know is that 1 day in or about week 4 Patrick disappeared without notice, and didn’t come to practice. I did not receive any communication back until after numerous text messages and emails he responded that he was quitting, no real reason given, just that he was quitting. I had no idea why he quit, but the immediate response given by him and his parents was that he was not being given a chance or the encouragement that he needed to succeed.
If you are like me, you cannot help but take it personal and feel like you could have done something more, and you certainly don’t need the opinions of other members of your team providing you with their opinions on it, you need that person’s feedback, but none was forthcoming. Regardless, when situations like this happen those 5% of the parents you will always have, who don’t buy into your philosophy about how the game should be played or how the schedule should be setup or any one of a number of other team issues, at these times, these people latch on and use the incident to further their agenda and create an environment that is caustic to team unity.
In this situation I can’t say that I handled it perfect I’m sorry to say. My nature has always been to ignore the haters and silently do what is best for the team but I’ll admit, its not easy. I wanted to know more about Patrick’s reasons, but the season and team beckoned and I responded by focusing my energy on helping them become the team I knew they could be.
Our season ended pretty well, we had a decent record of 12-6 in the end, and went about as far as our talent could take us, but I can’t help but wonder how far we could have went if Patrick would have just hung on and persevered through his doubts. He wasn’t a league all star in the making, but he was a good solid player and teammate and his parents were actively supporting the team in many ways up to this point, but isn’t it funny how one little incident can make the difference between a good team and a great one?
If you’ve read this far you are probably curious as to whether I ever found out what the deal was with Patrick and I can tell you that there is one thing that has always helped me keep my perspective when situations like Patrick’s occur and it is this: I know that I am not perfect, but I also know that everything I do (and don’t do) for my team has their best interest at heart and because of this I can sleep well. Just this past week after a year and a half has passed and Patrick has just graduated I received a text from him out of the blue which I will paste below. You be the judge….