A Moment To Share Or A Missed Opportunity, You Decide.
I am a volleyball coach. I coach a middle school team, and a competitive travel team. I played volleyball in college and dabbled professionally on the beach. I am by nature an emotional competitor, and I work hard to manage it both as a coach and a parent. Sometimes with less success than I would prefer.
My daughter Emily also plays volleyball. She is a talented player, a hard worker, and much better at keeping her mouth shut than her dad! She also happens to be a great student. I’m so proud of how she handles herself on and off the court.
As I mentioned, I am a volleyball coach, and I played, and I am emotional. So, it can be extra difficult for me to sit through a match when she isn’t playing well and not, hmm…express myself. This past season, we found ourselves in this situation. Her team was winning, but she wasn’t passing well in the serve/receive. I keep stats during every match, mostly to keep myself occupied, aka quiet, but also to ensure I don’t watch a match with rose-colored glasses. This may be a topic for another post, but for now, suffice it to say that her stats were bad. By the time the match was over I was fuming about her serve/receive, which sounds ridiculous in retrospect obviously, but see notes above. As I packed up my notebook and video equipment, I started my internal dialogue.
“Don’t you say a word about her passing. God, why was she passing so badly? Don’t you dare say it.”
This continued ad nauseam right up until I met her on the court. What I said was:
“It was fun watching you play.”
My supremely reserved daughter then hit me with a very excited:
“Did you see that left-handed dig I had!”
And I swear to you I’ve told this story a dozen times and every time, including as I’m writing this, I am trying not to cry. I get emotional because I came so close to squashing a special moment for my kid. A kid who doesn’t give us a lot of feedback. And here she was openly sharing with me, her annoying coach/dad, something she was extremely excited about. She knew I would understand what she meant and why it was important. And I almost blew it.
It’s rare that we get to see the impact of the mistakes we avoid. Mostly we remain blissfully unaware. But in the best way possible I got to see how close I came to ruining a special moment with my daughter. It breaks my heart a little bit because I wonder how many other blown opportunities I created by opening my mouth. Hopefully my near miss can help others avoid missing a special moment. The correct answer is always “I love to watch you play” and then close your darn mouth with all your might. Your kid will guide you from there.
Dion Lamb runs a developmental volleyball program, Cape Volleyball Club in Rehoboth Beach DE. He also coaches a U15 travel team, and is co-coaching a first year boys HS volleyball program this spring. When he is not in a volleyball gym he…oh wait, he’s always in a volleyball gym 🤓