Thursday, May 22, 2008

Headaches and Handshakes

I want to recap what became of my refusal to rematch Coachzilla, as Alan so eloquently coined. My own nickname for her also starts with a C, but this blog is PG-13.

In a nutshell, I've decided that Coachzilla doesn't just have ego problems. She might be certifiable--a criminal genius in the mold of Dr. Evil. I wrote a nice polite letter—and I really mean it was polite—respectfully declining a rematch. I'll tell you what, you be the judge.

Hi (Coachzilla),

I've been doing a lot of thinking about having a rematch with your team. Last year when I asked you for the same, I mentioned it to another parent who thought I was putting too much pressure on my kids. So I took back the request. I don't want to do that to them this year either. That was a big game for the kids, a real bright spot for the season, and I don't want to take that away from them. If you want to have us play (Coach A) and (Coach B) again, that's fine. A couple of my kids got hurt playing (Coach C) and I would rather avoid that one as well. Sorry if this disappoints you, but I have to put the feelings of my kids first.


This was her reply:

Sorry, but the schedule is already set. The strong teams must play each other again as I stated at the beginning of the season. I already changed the new schedule twice for other coaches and I'm not changing it again. I gave coaches an opportunity to voice their opinions two weeks ago. If you're putting too much pressure on your kids, then you need to re-evaluate your coaching style. My team has nothing to do with it and I'm not juggling the season so teams can keep their records in a league that doesn't keep stats.

This really teed me off. Actually, it sent me into a rage. While it's true that I had a chance to contest the rescheduling of the games, it didn't really sink in what she was doing until I had time to think about it. I'm a slow burner. Last year she had an undefeated team, and my team had only lost one game. I thought it would be really cool to rematch her so that my team would have a chance to be considered the best. One of the parents looked at me askance when I mentioned a rematch, and it hit me that I was using the kids to glorify myself as a coach. But notice how in her reply she takes that single instance and twists it to epidemic proportion. But what really got me is how she accused me of trying to preserve my team's record. I replied that I was insulted, and she wrote back, cc'ing league management. I had a discussion with the league president, and he told me that he put her up to the rescheduling of the games because some of the weaker teams were getting beat ten to nothing. So I was wrong that she was abusing her power, and I wrote her back and told her so. I added the lines: I really wish you wouldn't have called my motives into question. I'm a reasonable person and I always try to do what's right.

Here's what she had to say about that:

I didn't call your motives into question. Several parents and other coaches did, as well as what I have witnessed during two games against your team.

Last season you promised your team ice cream if they beat my team and did this in front of me and my players. This season you left one of your weak players in net the entire game and rarely subbed your strong players. While I understand you had only two subs, those subs complained that they got no playing time. Additionally, you were witnessed yelling at your own son during a game after he was hurt and doubled over in pain. This is not criticism, this is a suggestion to back-up and think about what our purpose is when coaching U8. I am an intense coach as well and have had this same conversation with myself many times. You are not the only coach I have spoken to this season. And I am not the only coach to have an issue with your team. As coordinator of the program it is my job to check in with you now and then and point you in the right direction. If you see this as a personal attack, then I'm sorry. My timing in speaking to you after our game may have been unfortunate but I would have said the same things to you later in the day.

If you choose not to play my team, then you are doing a disservice to the kids. I will not reschedule and my team will simply have a scrimmage that day.


She totally missed it that I had capitulated, deciding to play the game, thus perhaps some of her anger. But look at the attacks on my character! Last year, before the game, I took my kids to the other side of the field, away from all eyes and ears and told them that if they won the game I would buy them ice cream. This is something we did in Little League when I was a kid, and I thought it would be extra motivation. But it was a mistake, and it was more of that pressure that I shouldn't have been applying. But I did this away from her. It's just that one of the kids ran over to her side and told her kids. She makes it sound like I used pyrotechnics and a pa system. Mind you that she cc'd league management with this.

As for yelling at my son… With this statement she knocked my teeth out. At the end of the last game, Jackson took an elbow to the stomach. He had his hands over it and was walking down the field, slightly stooped but moving. The other team was advancing on our goal and had he been running he could have prevented it. Had I known the extent to which he was actually hurt, I would have called a timeout. As with most kids, my son tends to dramatize when he gets a bump or a scratch. I yelled out for him to run twice, and when the goal was scored and he still wasn't running, I knew something was really up. This comment from Coachzilla really hurt me deep.

I called my son's school and told them to make my son a walker. I was picking him up. I was reeling with guilt and shame, and frankly near tears to think that my son would think I valued the outcome of a soccer game over his well-being. I put my arm around him as he met me outside the cafeteria, where we were surrounded by other waiting parents, just beside the school busses that were being boarded by the other kids. As I was struggling for the words, we walked in silence beside Bus 5 when a head popped out of the rearmost window.

"Hey Coach!" It was one of my boys.

"Hey Austin," I replied as I watched his smile widen.

Over the top of his head came another of my boys, waving frantically, eyes pinched in a gesture that I could only explain as proud. "Hey Coach!"

I pointed at him, feeling a little emotional now. "Hey Luke."

Beside the next bus, one of the kids that doesn't get to play as much as the others pounded on his glass and waved hello as well. And another as we got close to the parking lot.

On the ride home I asked Jackson, "Am I a mean coach?"


"You can tell me, Jackson. If you ever have a problem with me I will listen. I promise I will."

"I know, dad."

"Do you think the other kids on the team are having fun? Do they think I'm too hard on them?"

"Dad, why did Austin and Luke, and Patrick and Hanna say hi to you?"

We both laugh.

And everything is ok.

The next day I saw one of the coaches from the Navy Blue team, who, if I can intimate from Coachzilla's email, complained about my treatment of my injured son.

"Coach C," I said, "It has come to me via the grapevine that you may have taken issue with the way I treated my son at the end of our game the other day."

"What are you talking about?" She looked bewildered.

I explain. The add, "I want you and everybody else to know that I love my son more than anything in the world. I would do anything for him." My eyes are a little glossed and I am cursing my lack of control. She sees this and puts a hand on my shoulder.

"Listen," she said, "we're competitive coaches, and some of the others just don't understand. When one of our kids goes down, we yell at them three sometimes four times before we realize that, oh shit, he really is hurt."

"Exactly!" I can't believe what I'm hearing. "You never know when they're really hurt because kids are always being over-dramatic."

"Listen," she said, "people around here talk sometimes just to hear themselves talk. Don't worry about it."

So Coachzilla put the Jedi Mind Trick on me, and I bought it for a day. She is softening me up for our rematch, but I'm pressing on with the way I've been doing things. I'm pretty sure there is nothing I can do to please her aside from throwing the game. It scares me what she did, and to the length she was willing to travel to knock me down. My wife told me that anyone who has met me for ten minutes knows that I would never mistreat my kids, much less my son.

It turns out that Coachzilla is defending herself in the Peewee league at an all-coaches meeting for her aggressive style of coaching five-year-olds. Apparently she has compiled a team that is dominating the other teams and she has pissed off every other coach and parent there as well.

I've decided that no further comment is needed by me. I must never underestimate her again. She really tried to hurt me.


mr. schprock said...

I know a guy in the North End who will put Coachzilla in the hospital for an ice cream with jimmies.

But don't forget the jimmies. Lenny don't like no ice cream with no jimmies.

A good friend of mine's son hurt his leg playing football. For the next three days the kid complained about his sore leg and my friend kept telling him to walk it off until he finally relented and took his son to the hospital. Turned out it was broken. Now THERE'S some parenting. Beat that!

Scott said...

Now that's a price I can afford!

The story of your friend reminds me of when I broke my big toe as a kid. My dad refused to believe that I needed a doctor, even as it swelled to twice it's normal size--becoming a really, really big toe. Finally he relented near the third day. My dad admitted to me years later that I had almost died of blood poisoning at the hospital. The toe was completely snapped in two, the bones separated and overlapping.

I don't think I beat your story, since we didn't go over three days. Close though.

Scott said...

Hi Kaycie - I deleted the last post because it was a repost of of this one, so I am putting your comment below. Thanks for your support. My thoughts are similar, that she is to be avoided--and yes, I think she really does believe what she is saying, and I totally agree that it makes it all the more scary.

Here is Kaycie's comment:

She sounds dangerously competitive to me. What is even scarier, I think she might believe her own BS. Tread carefully, but coach exactly the way you have in the past. If those kids didn't love you and think you're a good coach, they would have been hiding their heads, not pounding the bus windows to get your attention. Take from a grown up who used to play little league: I hid from the mean coach.

I am sure without a doubt that you are doing an excellent job. If you weren't a good coach and father, you wouldn't be sweating this at all.

magnetbabe said...

Wow. I've heard stories about competitive coaching and little league stuff, but I still have trouble imagining parents can be so nasty to one another. Coachzilla picked the wrong person to try to mindf-. You handled it beautifully by being civil but not backing down. And loved the part about the kids hanging out the windows.

Good luck with the rematch! If I were you, I'd promise ice cream win or loss, they shouldn't have to play against them again.

Scott said...

What she doesn't know is that I took my kids for ice cream after the game that she lost. I was congratulated by coaches and parents for two weeks. I felt like a celebrity, but a reluctant one because I didn't want to be sore sport, a bad winner. I didn't promise ice cream before the game, and when one of the kids asked if we would go should we win, I said to just go out and win the game because you want to win the game.

jason evans said...


What a nasty person she is.

She must have a very boring life to need that kind of angst from something that is supposed to be fun.

Scott said...

Yeah, the more I read it, the more hypnotic it is. She is really good and twisting the truth. Sounds like a politician, no?

Dixie Belle said...

You did good, Scott! She sounds mental to me. Like someone coaching a major league team but I know that is how some adults act for whatever reason. They need to get a life.

The Zombieslayer said...

I only have one thing to say - I hope you play them and win.

Don't worry about your parenting. It's fine. In the end, the one thing that matters most - quality time with your kids. Everything else is secondary. You're obviously spending the quality time with them. When they're in their 30s and 40s, believe me, they'll look back at those moments fondly.

Alan said...

Oh that bitch.

That's right I said it!

It's not beyond reason to believe Coachzilla has a personality disorder, and I don't even care. She effed with my dude!

Winning the game against her would be sweet indeed, but I've got another idea too.

Turn this into a novel. This is some seriously compelling stuff right here. This post alone was golden. I had to read every single word. I usually do. Take this whole amazing life of yours and walk a world full of readers through it.

If anyone can make team sports, father/son love, and a protagonist who wins in the end regardless of the outcome of the game and turn it into riveting prose--it's my Scott Ellis.

And imagine Coachzilla's face as the New York Times Bestseller lays bare all her narcissism and manipulation.

Success is a dish best served cold.


(That's right, I said it AGAIN.)

Toni Anderson said...

The drama and intrigue :) You'll probably hate me if say to you, IGNORE HER :) She'll hate that more than anything. And chat to the other coaches when she's around--she'll assume you're talking about her, and then talk about something more interesting, like soccer :0

She sounds like she's off her rocker and there is no way of talking to those sort of people.

Hugs, we have soccer tomorrow too :)

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

This all seems to be escalating towards a rather dangerous head. Before someone pulls out the nukes, maybe we should call in Clinton and Blair to mediate.

Or, in an act of puerile agression, you could scrawl a crudely drawn banner with 'Coachzilla' drawn as a dinosaur big eyelashes and a whistle.

kathie said...

Hey's hard for parents these days! I hope you're funneling all this (at least the emotion) into a short story or novel. It is difficult when you see your own goals being reflected in your child's life. We want the best for them and sometimes our way isn't the only way there. Hang in there, you seem to be learning so much and that's priceless. It must have felt good when all the kids were saying hi. I can imagine. BTW, in my house growing up, three days waiting period was standard before going in for an x-ray!!! "It's not broken," was the mantra until proven otherwise.

Beth said...

Oh my gosh, now I positively detest this woman. You realize you were using the kids for your own glory, you learned, and you STOPPED! Who's going to stop this bitch?

Are you really going to do a rematch? I just wouldn't no matter what. Or put it to a team vote or something!