Coach Tom Cody called a timeout.
The two referees at the girls’ high school basketball game jogged to the sidelines to ask him if it was a 30- or 60-second timeout, and Cody went off on them.
“Why don’t you two decide? You are the ones who need it. You let us know when you can start again. I called it for you,” Cody told the refs as parents cheered him on from the stands.
Whistle. Technical foul.
It was a move with the intensity of a Bobby Knight or Vince Lombardi, Cody said, the “guiding lights” for coaches at the time. It was in your face.
And it was all wrong, he said, recounting the episode last week to more than 100 youth and high school coaches, boosters and athletic directors at a workshop at Coon Rapids High School.
“I did a lot of good things and a lot of crazy things,” said Cody, who coached girls’ varsity basketball at Cretin-Derham Hall High School for 21 years.
Youth coaches need to think beyond wins, losses and bravado, he said. That was the theme that resonated throughout the night at the Anoka-Hennepin School District’s “Why We Play” workshop.
“People go into coaching because you like kids, but you forget,” Cody said. “You are supposed to be out there helping kids learn and grow.”
The district teamed up with the Anoka-Hennepin Education Foundation and the Minnesota State High School League to discuss good character in competition and the role coaches play in shaping children.
“We want our kids to walk away with more than sports skills,” said Jody Redman, associate director of the Minnesota State High School League. “Why are you really in this?” Redman asked the auditorium full of coaches. “We have to be more about our purpose — the growth and development of children.”
With fewer than three out of every 100 high school athletes going to play in college, Redman said, the youth sports experience needs to be as much about players’ personal development and growth as it is about tactical and athletic skills and the final score.
“We have to be really cognizant about how we define success,” Redman said. “We are not training kids to be professional athletes. If we are only focusing on sports skills, we are missing an opportunity to do so much more.”
It doesn’t mean that coaches need to sacrifice their goal of winning, but they do need to consciously complete their greater purpose: shape kids.
Skills such as time management, commitment, persistence and calculated risk-taking need to be part of the conversations between coaches, kids and parents at the start of the season.
Tom Lovik, youth football coach and vice president of football for the Coon Rapids Athletic Association, was there.
“I thought it was really good,” Lovik said.
Youth coaching has really transformed in the last two generations. You seldom see the coach yelling and degrading players on the sidelines, Lovik said.
Still it’s good to have honest conversations about the purpose of youth sports.
“It reinforces why I coach: Because I enjoy teaching the game. I enjoy seeing the kids improve,” Lovik said.