Paul Blart: Mall Cop

It’s amazing how much coaching a field hockey team has changed in the last five years. Back in my day, coaches and players did not text each other. It was inappropriate – and weird. Now, coaches HAVE to text players. We use an app, so it’s not regular text, but still, it’s texting. I can’t get used to it. I try to be as direct as possible, but I would much rather talk to them face-to-face.

Funnily enough, what I do remember when I played high school field hockey, were the sleepovers at the coach’s house. Once a season, Ms. Decker would have the entire Varsity team sleep over her house. We’d have pizza and soda, do Circle of Love (where everybody tells you what they love about you and most of the team cries), then stay up late talking and messing around and laughing and having the best time ever while the coaches hid upstairs away from us doing who knows what (…).

THAT was normal. And here’s the kicker – they still do it! So, sleepover at the coach’s house is normal but texting is not. It doesn’t make much sense, but this is my reality.

Anna Rose suggests that I have the entire team sleep over. I picture it: 23 girls in our loft apartment, pizza boxes stacked on the kitchen counter, sleeping bags strewn on the floor, and Steve, uncomfortably standing by.

Obviously, Steve would not be there. He’d have to spend the night somewhere else for the night, but it is a funny picture. What the heck would I do with 23 high school girls in my apartment for the night? It seems ridiculous.

Regardless of texting and sleepovers, I’m constantly trying to put myself back into my high school self and see things from a player’s perspective. But it’s just so different now. My coaches were tough and (sometimes) mean and practices were always hard. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I thrived in a strict environment of competitiveness and doing whatever I could do to make my coach proud. Do you think I liked sprints? No, of course not, but did I try to win every single sprint just because I wanted to win? Yup.

Just because I did well in high school with tough coaches doesn’t mean that I couldn’t have succeeded with another type of coach. I always thought that I liked to be pushed by coaches with negative reinforcement and people always getting on me to do better. But maybe it would have been nice to have some straight-up kind, encouraging words. It would have been nice to have been asked how I was feeling. It would have been nice if coaches were happy for me to go on a nice summer vacation with my family.

Right out of college, I found myself coaching other people the way I was coached. Because I knew it worked, or at least it worked for me. But I don’t think so anymore.

I definitely struggle with finding the balance between being stern and being kind. I want to instill discipline, commitment, accountability, competitiveness, drive, time management, and a love for the game, but I also want field hockey to be a place of fun and release. I want it to be a safe environment where players feel like they can talk to me about anything. I want them to want to be at practice every day.

As soon as practice starts, I am all field hockey and I don’t want to hear about their daily lives (sometimes they need to be reminded of this when they’re talking about school in the middle of a drill). But before and after practice, I listen and learn. It’s not much, but if you want to have a conversation with a high school girl, you might want to know the following:

1. Your “Ship” Name

This stands for your “relationship” name. A la Brangelina. The girls talk about their Ship name like they care more about the name than the actual person they’re dating. When I ask what Steve and my Ship name would be, one of my players, Morgan, thinks for a moment.

“Leve.”

I scrunch up my face. That’s a terrible name.

“Yea… they’re not always good.”

2. The way a person asks you to the dance is more fun than the actual dance

Just as the Ship name is key to a successful relationship, the proposal is all that matters for the Homecoming dance. I thought asking a person to a dance was hard, anyway, but now, it’s an event. Guys seek out girls to make a grand gesture. It’s usually a surprise, posters and puns are involved, and it’s always caught on camera for the world to see. 

3. Parking Lot Security Guards take their job very seriously

I didn’t grow up with any kind of security in the parking lot, so this is completely bizarre to me.

Only a few days into school, one of my players storms onto the field, ready to tell a story to her teammates. I can’t do it justice through writing, but every time she imitates the security guy, she makes her voice very deep, and it’s hilarious.

“I already have something to complain about. I got my parking space suspended for a week.”

Why?

“Because my music was too loud.”

WHAT?!

“Yea, this big man walks out to my car and he’s like, in his walkie-talkie like, ‘Sh, 3-6-3, we’ve got a situation here.’ And he walks up and knocks on my window like, ‘Roll it down.’ So I roll it down and I’m like, Hi, sir, is there something wrong? And he’s like, ‘Yes, your music is way too loud! That’s a violation! Your parking spot is suspended for a week!’

ARE YOU SERIOUS?

“Yes! And I didn’t even have all my windows down! And there was no profanity or anything!

That’s ridiculous!

“Yea… His teeth were all jacked up and yellow so he probably just hates his life.”

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