Lessons learned between the lines

I have mixed emotions writing this column because it will be my last Coffin’s Corner for The Beacon. It’s always tough to leave a job you have really enjoyed, but it is necessary to recognize when the job has come to an end. For this and other meaningful retirements in my life, such as teaching and coaching, the only way to explain the reason was to say, “It’s just time.”
I am amazed that it has been four years and 40 columns since I asked Beacon publisher, John Schaffner, if I could write a column for his newspaper. I hoped I could draw on my experiences from coaching and teaching physical education for more than 20 years to give advice to parents and coaches on ways to help kids succeed in sports. 

I have hammered adults for pushing too hard and applying too much pressure. Good coaches and caring parents have received support from me for keeping constructive priorities in focus. I truly believe athletics can be a wonderful and positive experience for kids — one that helps them become healthy and happy adults.
I am so appreciative of all the positive feedback I have received from readers. It was truly special to hear that columns were clipped and sent to relatives. Knowing that a father understood his daughter better because of something I wrote was heartwarming. I also was delighted to hear that in one neighborhood in Florida, the kids gather daily to play together without having an adult in charge. Imagine that!
Your affirmation and encouragement led me to write articles that have been printed in a national magazine for coaches. Some of those articles are now being used by a state organization in Illinois and another in British Colombia, Canada. Unbelievable. I owe publisher John Schaffner and editor Angie Adair Zam a very big “Thank You” for giving this rookie writer an opportunity to share my sometimes controversial opinions with the public.
When retiring from coaching, I thought long and hard about what I wanted my players to remember from playing tennis. I’m going to repeat it here. Bear in mind that this was intended for a sport where players are the referees and scorekeepers. Unlike professional tennis, in high school there are no line judges to signal whether a ball lands in or out. The players must make the calls and they make the decisions on their opponent’s shot. Imagine how well that would work in baseball if the batter got to call balls and strikes!
If you have a “bad call,” that means your opponent called a ball out when it wasn’t and you lose the point. The word, “draw” refers to who will be your opponent in a tournament. Sometimes, names are simply drawn out of a hat, and the result is just luck. Draws, calls and luck are important things in a match that an athlete cannot control. Oh, yes, the lines on the tennis court are white. This was my last message to my players, and now it is also to my readers. I hope you enjoy it.

Lessons learned between the white lines:
• You will have bad draws, bad calls and bad luck … overcome them. You will have good draws, good calls and good luck … appreciate them.
• Your reputation is more important than your record.
• Competition makes you stronger. You find out how good you can really be.
• To maintain poise in a stressful situation is an act of courage.
• The team is more important than you are, but the team cannot succeed without you.
• You cannot control the outcome of a match, but you CAN control how hard you try.   
• The person with integrity is a winner every match.
• How you handle the good times matters just as much as how you handle the bad.
• The best victories are the ones you’ve worked the hardest to achieve.
• Tennis is a sport that includes a lot of love and serving; A life well-lived includes the same.

Karen Coffin, retired coach, is a member of the Port Clinton High School Athletic Hall of Fame.  She’s a writer and a facilitator for Ohio Coaching Education classes. Contact her at coachcoffin

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