The women sitting beside me were less than 20% of those in attendance at this wonderful gathering— a meeting of 64 different coaches of more than 15 different sports from Jesuit secondary schools (in the western US). The school I work out sent nine attendees; I was one of two women in our group, and interestingly enough two of my male colleagues with me coach girls soccer. Not one woman in attendance coaches a boys' sport. In our three days together, I learned more than I know—and yet one thing became very clear. If we believe that coaching is a ministry, we must encourage young people to not only think of it as one, we must invite them to it.
|Female teams have won 14 of UCLA's last 18 NCAA titles. |
Four of their coaches discuss the pressures and rewards of what they do.
I write tonight, though tired and behind on the work I missed while I was away, because I hope anyone who reads this blog will invite a young person to consider coaching. The invitation—by way of a question—has always been the approach to understanding vocation. For example, at the Colloquium's final mass, Father Paul Grubb, SJ: the downhill ski coach at Jesuit High in Porltand, Oregon urged us to ask the young people we coach the following two questions: Have you ever thought about entering the Society of Jesus? Have you ever considered a vocation to the priesthood? He said, "these questions, said with joy, honesty and enthusiasm might awaken a response that your athlete didn't know he had." It made me wonder how I would have responded if my tennis or track coach had said to me, "have you ever thought about coaching?"
My colleague and sister in coaching Jen and I had a fun and spirited debate on the first night of the Colloquium. The planning team had hoped to host Brandi Chastain as the keynote speaker. Chastain, a two-time Women's World Cup Champion soccer player and two time Olympic gold medalist, coaches at Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose. Bellarmine is a Catholic, Jesuit secondary school that is a home for 1600 boys. Jen believes that Chastain should be coaching girls; her influence and example would be wonderful for young women. I think it's more important that she is coaching boys. Boys rarely have female coaches; there's really no reason they shouldn't. You might be thinking, So what. Does it make a difference? Yes...No...and Maybe. It's ministry—God's work. Ultimately God is the head coach anyway. But there's more to both of those ideas...and questions...let's save that debate for the next Colloquium. I wonder how many more, if any, female coaches will join me.
NB: As mentioned in my presentation, I do not refer to high school sports as "men's soccer" or "women's volleyball." I use the descriptors "boys" and "girls." I truly believe that part of my job is to mold my 14, 15 and 16 year old golfers into becoming "women." They are not there yet...I know, I wasn't. That's part of the ministry.