One of my goals each practice was to make meaningful eye contact with each player. Each athlete deserved to receive an affirming gaze of attention from her head coach.
A prime time to get this accomplished was at the beginning of practice when the team was circled up stretching out. I would start with players who would be least likely to receive attention during practices. My hope was not only to smize (smiling with my eyes at them) but to acknowledge that I was glad they were there. I'd ask a question or make a positive comment so she would know I was fully present with her even if just for a few moments. Most days I was able to make it around the circle to everyone. If not, I would make a point to touch base with the one(s) I missed before they left the gym.
On Mondays, players would grab the file folder in the lockerroom with their name on it and fill out a calendar of the exams, papers, projects due that week. The otherside of the folder were blank pages of legal pad paper. On these pages, they had the opportunity to express their thoughts, things they were going through and prayer requests with me. Each week I would write back and it was a cool way of communicating especially with the quieter more non-verbal athletes on the team. I learned things I would never otherwise had known. Their comments were deep, personal, meaningful, and sometimes sad. Others were funny and brief. It was an invaluable fantastic way to relate, listen, affirm and love.
Players who know they are valued for who they are not simply for what they can do, have a sense of belonging, freedom and joy. Listening to understand is a vital step to any meaningful relationship. Seeing, hearing and valuing provided rich soil to grow deep and lasting relationships. These intentional encounters made me a better coach and an even better person.
I coach. I coach young women...not just volleyball.