For 12 years, through too many youth basketball, football, and baseball games to count, my husband and I have found ourselves on opposite sides of almost every single game.
He was arriving early to games to warm up with the players and make last minute game changes.
And I was pulling in to the parking lot just a few minutes before start time.
He was leading practices 2-5 nights each week.
And I was at home managing things like dinner and laundry and homework.
He was on the sidelines with the players, giving them guidance, changing strategies, and trying to mentally support the ever-changing needs of youth players.
And I was talking with the other parents in the stands about the always-changing challenges of parenting.
He was up late working on plays, coordinating schedules, collaborating with other coaches, and planning practice drills.
And I was sitting beside him on the couch waiting (sometimes not so patiently) to also be a priority.
He was helping players during time outs to find their confidence again, control their temper, or handle conflicts.
And I was in the stands, working on keeping my mouth shut whenever someone criticized his coaching decisions.
He was huddled in a corner with the team after a game, pointing out their strengths and where they could have done better.
And I was huddled in a different corner, waiting to tell him and the team “good game.”
In addition to doing everything else involved in being a volunteer youth sports coach, he was busy spending the past 12 years forging a special place in his heart for each of the players that ever had the opportunity to call him coach, sharing lasting lessons of perseverance, and cultivating moments that will become snapshots in the memories of so many youth players.
And I was busy spending the past 12 years forging a special place in my heart for every sports parent who ever sat beside me and supported me when my own child was struggling, cheered for my kids like they were their own, sent me game updates when I had to miss a game, or knew just what to say to my child after a hard game.
For 12 years I’ve told myself that I can’t wait for the day when my husband and I finally get to experience the game from the same spot.
But as he steps into a youth sports game for his very final time as a coach today, I’m realizing just how lucky we were to spend so many years on opposite sides of the games and just how empty that players' bench will seem without him there as a coach again.
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