She Spit In My Face

The year was 1999. I was coaching a 7th grade boy’s basketball team. We had just lost a close game. Afterwards, one of the player’s mother approached, and berated me in public. She felt I was unfair to her son.

As I’m being berated, spit was flying from her mouth into my face!

Let’s stop there for a moment. What would the average person do?! In all likelihood, they may have snapped!

When working with, or around kids, I try to hold myself to a high standard. A long time ago, I came to understand (in the grand scheme of things) that I’m just a spec of sand on the beach. I’ve learned not to take myself too seriously.

I also understand that if a parent perceives that you’re not treating their kid fairly (rightly or wrongly), or belittling them, the parent will come after you! As a coach, if you can’t deal with that, you shouldn’t coach. The coach must understand this, and always be the adult (in the room) when conflict arises.

This is the overriding principle that I try to follow.

What did I do when the mother was spitting in my face? As my great friend John Alcox says, “I scrapped the plate!” In other words, I stood there and took it! When she finished, I apologized for the fact that she felt I was unfair to her son!

Later that night when I arrived home, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I wish I had responded with fire! On the other hand, I felt great because I exercised extreme self-control under very tough circumstances.

If I see that mother again, I’ll engage her as if nothing ever happened. But, I’ll always remember, she was the person that spit in my face!

Cheers,
Coach Berry

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