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.