I wish I weren’t reeling from a mid-season parent/coach meeting I attended last night… but I am. I wish I didn’t feel like I have a responsibility to write about it this morning… but I do.
I am Choosing to Grow: For the Sport of It, and I can only do that legitimately if I am willing to face… head on… the issues as they come. I look for lessons in everything. I work to see the teachable moment in all the things I do, and last night was no exception. I am on the front lines of the youth sports battlefield, and I figured out last night, I am not armed well enough.
The thing is, I’m not exactly sure whether I need more protective gear or a more high-tech weapon.
After the neary two-hour conversation, I feel like issues were addressed, communication lines were made more open, and opinions were generally expressed. Small steps in the right direction.
What I personally learned, however: If it is a sports conversation, I barely have anything to offer…if the topic is about hockey, I can offer even less…and comments I make are only legitimized if my college-hockey-coaching husband stands up to defend my point.
It’s not fair to assume that every time I offer my opinion about sports I’ll feel as shunned as I did for most of last night. I approach every situation as an independent experience. I felt somewhat legitimized by the end of the meeting…but it didn’t start out that way.
I’m not surprised the coach came out swinging. He didn’t know that my suggestion about a team meeting was so that the parents and coaches could be put on the same page. So that all of us could be going in the same direction and so the expectations and philosophies could be clearly explained. We hadn’t had a full parent-coach meeting yet, and too many assumptions, frustrations and miscommunications were building. I have acquired a number of coaching and communication tools over the years, and I was truly attempting to facilitate a platform for dialogue. I was thinking a meeting might help the coaches…so that the parents could help by aligning with them.
He assumed otherwise.
He told us he thought we had come with torches and pitchforks, and having witnessed, and experienced, such parent-directed meetings, I was not surprised he wanted to lay authoritative groundwork right away. I respect that…I really do.
The thing is, I tried to waylay his concerns with an early comment about the intention of the meeting, and he sternly instructed me to follow his ground rules and let him run “his” meeting.
I spoke up, respectfully, a number of other times, but I was increasingly convinced that my opinion was of little consequence to him. He softened his posture, after my husband weighed in, and addressed our comments as a couple, but it really felt like I hadn’t mattered before that.
If I am going to describe how that feels…deflating.
This is not the way I have been trained in discourse. My husband and I went to Colorado College, where every class is a debate/discussion that includes respectful banter where all ideas were respected and contemplated. The professors are part of the conversation and simply encourage the direction. Through countless hours of discussion, I never felt as though my opinion didn’t count as much because I am a woman.
I felt a little bit like that last night.
It’s actually something that has been gnawing at me quite a bit lately. For more reasons than the recent conversation, I am noting a subtle, yet persistent, discrimination when it comes to women and sports. As much as things have changed in the sporting world…there is quite a bit that is exactly the way it has always been.
Title IX is practically forty years old, and girls have more opportunity to play than ever before. The next phase in progress will be when women can have a voice, and take a confident stand, in that other male-dominated room…the coach’s. It is telling that in the last ten years there have been multi-million dollar sex-discrimination lawsuits by women in the college coaching ranks. Fresno State’s debacle is one of the most drastic examples.
The male-dominated sports culture still exists, but I would like to take this opportunity to express that times are changing. The shift in the youth sports wind smells an awful lot like women’s perfume. There are more and more girls, who have benefitted from Title IX, who are the moms on the teams men coach, and more and more women are willing AND ABLE, to coach with and against them. Things will change… but change is never easy.
Besides my own sporting experience, I have been working really hard on this project, researching the smartest sports psychologists, interviewing and meeting with some of the best minds in the business of youth sports, and I know I am gaining knowledge and insight about communication, team building, teaching and coaching. What I learned last night:
My sports opinion doesn’t really matter… yet.
Right now, my expected role is similar to what these women do (or don’t do) in the Responsible Sports example of how to run a hockey parent meeting. I won’t apologize that I am uncomfortable sitting quietly, and I am open to be influenced by what happened yesterday… but not deterred.
So, my skin is a little thicker and I am eyeing those protective shields. At the same time, I am manufacturing a different weapon. My weapon is one of strategy, negotiation and cooperation. I am fighting for my kids and for kids in general.
I may not battle the way men do, but I can fight, and I am not afraid to get into the fray.
To learn more about Meagan or her current book project, you can find her at www.meaganfrank.com