The Modern Momma: Thanks to the Volunteer Coaches and Their Dedication to Helping Kids

Hats off to those unsung heroes on the sidelines who give up time (and sleep) to teach young athletes about sports and life.

Kristy Eckert
Kristy Eckert

Eight hundred and four games—give or take. That’s how many youth sporting events my husband has coached. I did the math.

The best part is that he can still recall very specific plays from most of them. Just ask him.

The practices, of course, run in the thousands.

Four kids, five sports and one painful surgery later—courtesy of a 12-year-old baseball player with a killer swing—he’s still at it.

And even after all these years, it still matters enough to keep him up at night.

Not because he’s trying to live out some fantasy through our son. Trust me—he played his share of sports into adulthood and still treats his daily CrossFit workouts like Olympic training sessions. He’s doing just fine for himself.

It still matters because, like 99 percent of all youth coaches, he actually cares about the kids.

And despite the fact he can remember football plays from 15 years ago like they happened last night, we talk so much more about the kiddos than the wins.

“Coach, I’m sorry. I’m just not very good,” one boy told Mike on the first day of baseball practice. “I had two hits all season last year.” That was all Mike needed to hear. Midway through the season, the kid had earned his way to batting clean-up.

There was another boy who showed up to his first basketball practice wearing jeans and a dressy sweater with sleeves covering his hands. He ended up scoring the winning bucket in the championship game.

There was one child with autism whom Mike would pick up and carry to different spots on the flag football field, and another who finally got a baseball hit and danced. (Mike cried.)

There was the girl whose dad had abandoned her who, her mother shared, finally found the father figure she needed in Mike.

Now, some of these kids are full-grown adults. We see them out at Ohio State games or in restaurants, and they give Mike these wide smiles and giant hugs. Sometimes, they remember the plays, too—those heroic moments that come with a high only sports can give. Other times, they remember how fun the parent-kid scrimmage was, or playing Ghost in the Graveyard at our house at the season-ending party.

I tried it once—the youth coaching thing. I’m the daughter of a high school coach. I played sports for much of my life. Surely, I could instruct 8-year-olds. Truth: I was terrible. There’s just so much to manage between the planning and the communicating and the instruction and the strategy and individual behavior and all the feelings of the kids and the parents. Also, everyone wants to win. I ended up feeling like an unappreciated babysitter. I hated it.

So my respect for my husband runs deep.

And the same goes for every one of you who dedicates time and energy and heart and soul to coaching kids. Whether you’ve coached mine or someone else’s, thank you.

Thank you for spending countless hours—during your morning runs, driving into work and over dinner—figuring out how to get that one kid more engaged at soccer practice.

Thank you for losing weeks’ worth of sleep stewing over how to correct that other kid’s swing.

Thank you for showing up early. For staying late. For texting with your coaching crew for hours on end strategizing who should play where against whom.

Thank you for spending your own money renting extra gym time and treating players to ice cream. For giving up professional opportunities because staying in an office late into the night isn’t going to work for you. For sacrificing weekend trips to Las Vegas (or just chilling comfortably on your couch) in order to lose your voice while pacing across muddy fields during rainstorms.

Thank you for teaching the kids how to be part of something bigger than themselves.

How to work.

How to communicate.

How to win.

How to lose.

How to lead.

I see you. I appreciate you. I love you.

Kristy Eckert is a Powell mom and founder of Kristy Eckert Communications.

This story is from the Winter 2021 issue of Columbus Parent.