In my spare time, I coach girls Ultimate Frisbee. It’s been seven years since I started, and I can honestly say that it’s been one of, if not the most significant experience of my life—
It all started because I graduated college with zero direction and zero idea of what to do. I moved back home and I started to help out and coach Fencing. It was there when I wore my old team sweatshirt and one of the girls I coached asked me to help coach Girls Ultimate. Apparently the team had only been a few years old, and it was getting overlooked by the school and the program. My only experience had been as a player, but half out of needing something to do and half out of wanting to genuinely help, I decided to become a coach.
I could write about everything we’ve done, and this would be a 5,000 word essay, but I think I’m going to just focus on how being a coach has changed me. Up until then, I only played sports with guys, mostly hung out with guys, and that was normal for me. That all changed once I started coaching. You don’t really understand male privilege until you start seeing it from the other side. You had these girls who worked their asses off, did every workout, every drill, and you’d still have people who’d look down on them for not simply being boys, and doing what boys do. And I know that it should have angered way before I started coaching, but it didn’t. It mattered now because these girls were my girls. They’re the ones that I looked after, and that made a difference, it made me see it from a whole new light. That was the first real thing that the girls taught me, and it’s been crazy ever since.
I coach the best girls. They’re bright, precocious, witty, hard-working, and most of all good-hearted. In short, they are the opposite of who I am. I can honestly say that they make me a better person by just being around them. That doesn’t mean I’m happy all the time, or that there aren’t times that I want to pull my hair out and scream into the air. They genuinely challenge me, they force me to examine who I am, and what I stand for. I think sometime if you talk to me, I paint the picture that it’s this big huge loving family, and it is, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t hard times. I know that in the grand scheme of things Ultimate Frisbee means next to nothing, but in order to learn anything of worth from any sport, you have to treat your craft with seriousness and dedication. When that happens, you get into arguments and fights because you care. There have definitely been times when you want to quit, but you learn that sometimes you push on. People will dislike you for all sorts of reasons, but if you believe in what you do, you have to have courage in your convictions. You also need the humility to learn from your mistakes, which I definitely make more than enough of.
To track my progress as a coach is to track my development as a man. I’m arrogant, ill-tempered, and insensitive, and I definitely was back when I started coaching, but I’m immeasurably better now than when I first started. It’s been a little over six years now, and seeing those girls grow up has been one of the absolute joys in my life. To see them grow from these unsure freshmen to these intelligent, outspoken, and driven young women is a privilege. If I had any small part to do with that, then it is by far the most meaningful thing I’ve done in my life. Your perspective starts to change when someone you adore looks up to you, even more when they ask you for advice. You don’t want them to make the same mistakes you did, but at the end of the day all you can do is be a positive part of their lives and be there for them along the way.
In order to be a good coach, you have to be a teacher. Any idiot can teach skills, hell, you can probably learn a lot from just watching YouTube tutorials. But to train people to work together, to connect with them, to make them believe in themselves, to make them believe in you, that’s something special. The one thing that I can say is that they bring out the best in me. They were the first people other than my family that I truly put before myself. It’s terrifying to think who I’d be without having been a coach. I would have missed out on so many great memories, I would have never understood what it felt like to have earn something after giving your everything to a cause, and on the other side to lose after doing the same and how heartbreaking it is. Beyond all that though, it’s about none of that mattering in the long run. It’s about taking the lessons you learn from a sport that we love and the relationships we make. It’s about the infinite little moments from pasta parties, long road trips, and forgotten moments during tournaments that make it all worthwhile.
I think there are three versions of myself. Who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. For the past few years the girls fill a jar full of little thank you notes and write down memories of the past season. I read the notes when I first get them at the banquet, and then sometimes I get the urge to flip through them. When I do, I see the man who they think I am, who I know I’m not at times. But the thing is, they bring out the best in me. I know that pouring my blood, sweat, and tears into coaching these girls makes who I am just that little bit closer to who I want to be.
So, when I get asked why I spend so much of my time coaching: It makes me a better person. I coach the best girls. And even though the pay is shit, the hours are long, and some days I want to continuously bang my head on a very hard and dense wall, I love every glorious second of it.
Those are my reasons.