She spit in my face

The year was 1999. I was coaching a 7th grade boy’s basketball team. We had just lost a close game. Afterwards, one of the player’s mothers approached, and berated me in public. She felt I was unfair to her son.

As I’m being berated, spit was flying from her mouth into my face!

Let’s stop there for a moment. What would you do?! In all likelihood, you may have snapped!

When working with, or around kids, I try to hold myself to a higher standard. A long time ago, I came to understand (in the grand scheme of things) that I’m just a spec of sand on the beach. I’ve learned not to take myself too seriously.

I also understand that if a parent perceives that you’re not treating their kid fairly (rightly or wrongly), or belittling them, the parent will come after you! As a coach, if you can’t deal with that, you shouldn’t coach. The coach must understand this, and always be the adult (in the room) when conflict arises.

This is the overriding principle that I try to follow.

What did I do when the mother was spitting in my face? As my great friend John Alcox says, “I scrapped the plate!” In other words, I stood there and took it! When she finished, I apologized for the fact that she felt I was unfair to her son!

Later that night when I arrived home, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I wish I had responded with fire! On the other hand, I felt great because I exercised extreme self-control under very tough circumstances.

This weekend, when I return to Glen Ridge, NJ to attend a wedding, it’s highly likely I’ll see this mother again. If and when I see her, I’ll engage her as if nothing ever happened.

But, I’ll always remember her as the mother that spit in my face.

About the author 

Coach Berry

John Berry (a.k.a. Coach Berry) has been a basketball coach and skill development trainer since 1993 and has coached hundreds of games and instructed 1,000’s of kids. Coach Berry is, and always has been committed to helping youth in life and on the basketball court.