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10/10/2012 8:11:33 PM -
I'm on a plane...

As I write this, I’m sitting on a plane. I bought the wi-fi on the plane, so I may even post it when I’m done. If you’ve never done this before I’d highly recommend it on coast-to-coast flights like the one I’m on right now. It kills off a few hours like you wouldn’t believe, and it’s well worth the $9.99—or whatever I just paid for this shit.

Anyway, being on a plane, checking Facebook, IM’ing with people and posting shit on EliteFTS got me to thinking about a couple of things. I was reading an article in last week’s Sports Illustrated about FC Barcelona and how they’re supposedly the model for professional sports organizations around the world today. I don’t know a hell of a lot about soccer—yes, Alwyn, I call it soccer—but it was an interesting read, and I want to learn more about their all-encompassing approach to player development, care of their athletes, and everything else they do.

When I read articles like that, though, and I see promotions for this weekend’s UFC event in Brazil, it makes me think about where the next superstars we’ll be following are right now. I’m thinking about this especially in terms of my age right now. Unfortunately, I’ve come to an age where I’m older than pretty much everyone in professional sports right now—except maybe Randy Couture and a handful of NFL kickers. I’m not sure how I feel about that, other than thinking that I was a fully-formed adult—if not emotionally, then at least physically—when some of these guys were living pretty shitty lives.

Think about the Brazilian UFC fighters. I think Anderson Silva is 37 now, so what was he doing 25 years ago? His life was probably a hell of a lot worse than mine. I’d bet a lot of money on that. Same goes for football guys. It’s sort of interesting how my opinion of professional athletes has changed. If I wasn’t around sports and had never met as many pro athletes as I have, I’d begrudge these guys like crazy for holding out for bigger contracts. I’d probably be like every other fan and piss and moan about how these guys were a bunch of greedy SOBs that didn’t deserve our hard-earned money for tickets.

You know what, though? With the guys I’ve known for a long time, before they made it, I feel differently. I’ve seen where several of them came from. I know their families. I know their situations. I know how rough some of them had it growing up, and I know how rough their families have had it—even after they signed their first contract. So when they’re free agents after the rookie minimum is over, I’m like, “F**k, dude...get as much as you can out of those assholes!”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot now as a coach. We’re going to hear about someone HUGE in some sport in about 6-7 years. What’s the guy doing now? Where is he? Odds are, his life sucks pretty badly. If history repeats itself, that guy—or kid, because that’s what he is right now—is having some serious problems as we speak. Maybe he’s stuck in some shithole housing project somewhere, or living in a shit shack in the middle of nowhere. Maybe he’s being shuttled around from foster home to foster home because his father’s locked up and his mother’s an addict. Maybe he’s even down in Brazil living in a tin shack, using a sock full of wet paper as a soccer ball and learning to fight at some youth center.

As coaches, we need to think about this shit. As adults, we can handle this shit. We can come to grips, usually, with where we’re at and where we’ve come from, no matter how bad it was. I like to say I can identify with my kids, because I’ve “been there” in terms of what it takes to get on the field, but also because I’ve had my life ripped out from under me a few times, too. We forget about that, though, I think. We forget that everyone starts somewhere, and most of the best players out there, including that “next big thing” don’t grow up in happy suburban homes where Daddy’s a CEO and Mom has a meatloaf in the oven every night.

That kid I’m referring to? He’s struggling right now. He’s obsessed with his sport, but he’s got bigger shit to worry about, like where his next meal is coming from and whether he’s going to get shot on the way to practice because someone asks him where he’s from and he gives the wrong answer.

When you coach YOUR kids, think about THAT kid.

From 40,000 feet,
Angry Coach

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