An Open Letter to the Kids I Coach(ed)

by Nicole on February 26, 2014

Posted in: Miscellaneous

To the most amazing and stressful (and amazingly stressful) bunch of kids I’ve ever known:

I’ve wanted to write you this letter for a long time. I suppose I thought it best suited for a ‘goodbye,’ rather than some weird message you’d stumble upon mid-season. Despite how long I’ve wanted to do this, I still don’t quite know how to start this, or what kind of path it’ll take, but here goes.

I adore you. Really. If you had told me 6 years ago when I interviewed for my first coaching position at Westfield, that I’d be here 6 years later and that I’d be so enamored by this area, our school, and you kids, I don’t know that I would have believed you. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had no idea that coaching at Westfield would lead me to change the script of my life (I could have moved to Florida years ago when my family left). I had no idea that I’d meet such amazing people and such great kids. And I really didn’t expect to learn so much from you. I knew I was signing on to teach you and coach you. But I didn’t know that I’d walk out so much richer and more fulfilled, myself.

IMG_5122

When I walked into winter tryouts in November of 2008, I was intimidated. I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if I’d be greeted by snotty teenage girls (like the ones I was used to from my own high school experience), or even if I’d be greeted at all. I wanted to be cool, but also knew I needed to command your respect and assert myself as an authority figure. I hoped you wouldn’t know that I was just 22, a mere 4 years older than the oldest cheerleaders I’d be coaching.

I was so pleasantly surprised. You taught me so very quickly that not all teenage girls are little snots. You taught me to find my voice, grow a pair, speak up, and assert myself. You taught me that my age doesn’t matter, my heart does. You taught me that I’m a bit more of a fuddy-duddy than I thought I was (thanks for that?). At the same time, you’ve kept me young.

What am I going to do now? Without you, I would have never known what twerking was, how to do the wop, I wouldn’t have known what a “donk” was, I wouldn’t have known how to wear my jeans (or any other clothes), or my hair, my nails, my makeup.

IMG_1860

I am so glad that I was able to serve as your big sister/not-mom/not-teacher figure. I’m glad that you trusted me with secrets, asked me for advice, and came to me when you needed help. I did the best I could to help you through what may be 4 of the toughest (or at least 4 of the most changing) years of your lives, and I hope one day, that you remember me (fondly, if at all possible) for that.

I hope I helped you build character. I also hope that it took you a little while to learn that my bark is worse than my bite … if you figured me out quickly, don’t tell me … I don’t know that my hard ass ego could take it.

On the other hand, I hope you graduated knowing how much I loved you. I hope you enjoyed your years with me, just as I did with you. And I hope that you know that you can always  count on me, come to me, call, or text me.  Really.

But, most of all, and the real reason behind me wanting to say all of this ‘out loud,’ I hope that you know you’re beautiful. I hope you know you’re strong. I hope you know that you are so very capable of taking over the world (but please, don’t go getting a big head) and doing amazing things. I hope you see yourself for what you are, for how I see you.

I hope high school (and perhaps some of the bullies, or less-than-kind folks) didn’t beat you down … and I hope you really do go forth and conquer. I hope you know how strong you are. How inspiring you are. How much potential you have. I hope you value yourself and everything you can offer to the world, to your family, to your peers.

IMG_4442

You. Are. Amazing.  The smarts and power you possess simply from growing up when you have is huge. You are capable of so much. You are so incredibly smart.

Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t waste your talent or your smarts. Don’t make stupid decisions once you go off to college, because trust me, stupid decisions get easier the older (and further from home) you get. I hope you keep those good heads on your shoulders. I hope you call home once in a while. And hell, I hope you keep in touch (with me, that is).

You’ve been inspiring. I can’t wait to tell my own daughter (and eventual children) all about you. About how much you taught me. About how you played a huge role in shaping who their mother is. About how you scared the shit out of me … because, well, teenage girls (and boys) are downright frightening. About how I got gray hairs in my early twenties … because working with you, I couldn’t not.

When I think back to that winter tryout in November of 2008, I remember how I pep-talked myself on the way to the school. I remember how I decided to put on my big girl pants and just do it, speak up, assert myself.

“Speak your mind … even if your voice shakes.” – Maggie Kuhn

I hope you learned something from me. And if you didn’t, well, hell. I hope you had fun. And if you didn’t? Well … I don’t know what to tell you other than I’m really not that bad, am I?

I hope you learned to do the right thing. I hope you learned to work hard … because hard work pays off. I hope you learned to respect authority, respect your peers, and work as a part of a team. All these things will help you tremendously as you grow up and transition into college, jobs, and eventually, a family of your own.

I hope you learned that you’re not always right (I am … just kidding). I hope you learned to fail gracefully. Really … I hope you learned.

I hope I empowered you. I hope I inspired you to do better. I hope I gave you the tools (or at least some of them) necessary to grow and succeed. I hope I played a big part in your high school career, and I hope I hold at least a tiny place in your heart.

People will cut you down. They’ll make you feel like you’re an inch tall. Especially adults. Some adults haven’t had the pleasure of seeing how amazing kids can be. Cut them a break, and prove them wrong whenever you can. They just don’t know better. Don’t let these jerks dull your sparkle. Seriously. Live your life speaking your mind, being respectful, and trying to make a difference. You’ll look back one day, when you’re grown, and be impressed with yourself. I swear.

Be healthy. Make good choices. Be active. Don’t get old and fat and lazy. Really. Being old and fat and lazy isn’t fun. Keep tumbling … it’s fun to be a grownup who can still do flips. Great conversation starter, and an even better party trick. Plus, you don’t want to feel 30 when you’re 30, 40 when you’re 40, and so on.

Keep your mind young. Give kids a chance when you’re an adult. Maybe they’ll change your life the same way you changed mine.

You know, I knew I loved this sport. I knew I liked kids enough. I knew I wanted to stay involved in cheer. But I had no idea what coaching you would do to me. So, thanks.

Thank you for the grey hairs. Thank you for making my past 6 birthdays memorable. Thank you for celebrating my wedding with me, and for not driving me too crazy during my first pregnancy. Thank you for being wonderful enough that I’m crying happy tears as I write this. Thank you for giving me time off, supporting me, and writing me cards when Erik died … that truly meant the world. Thank you for teaching me so much about myself. Thank you for making me laugh … all the freaking time. Thank you for the parenting practice … really, I have a feeling I’m much better prepared now for my kids’ teenage years than I would have ever been otherwise. Thank you for respecting each other. Thank you for making Centreville my home. Thank you for being my extended family. Thanks for being you. Really.

IMG_2465

Lastly. Thank your parents. They played a huge part in making you who you are … and they’ll continue to do that for you. Parents of teenagers don’t get ‘thank yous’ nearly enough, so go make their day … and do it every once in a while.

I’m so proud of every last one of you. I can’t wait to sit back and watch you accomplish amazing things. You are capable of so much. Please, please, please never forget that.

Love,

Coachie

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Daddy February 27, 2014 at 1:45 pm

You go girl!

You really know how to make a grown man cry. Your girls have not only had a great cheerleading coach, but a wonderful life coach as well. I’m certain each and every one of them appreciates the love and nurturing you’ve provided, and I’m equally certain that each is already a much better person as a result.

I am so proud of you and your accomplishments. You remind me so much of your mother who taught you so well and imparted those superior values you so fluently exude.

As the old saying goes, “An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.

I love you Babe,

Dad

Reply

Nicole February 27, 2014 at 7:35 pm

I love you :) xo

Reply

Sahra March 19, 2014 at 3:21 pm

this is so amazing and inspiring! I’m also a former cheerleader, and oh how I would LOVE to be a coach! you seem to have really inspired <3

XO Sahra
Que Sera Sahra
PS Be sure to enter my giveaway to win a tee or tank from By Luciana!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: