I Never Thought It Would End THIS Way


For anyone who has ever coached youth sports of any kind, from pee-wee to middle school, and even high school sports in some cases………I have a deep question that has been floating in my mind in recent days. Just give me minute to circle around to it.

My youngest daughter wrapped up her high school soccer career tonight.  The days leading up to it flooded me with memories of all her games past, both far and near.  Thoughts of different leagues, cities, coaches, teammates, hotel rooms, victory, defeat.  Reflections of how she changed over the years as a player, a competitor, and a person.  Wondering how and why things have played out exactly as they have.  Thinking about influences both good and bad that could have or would have made things better or worse if they’d been different.

And I started thinking about the kids that I have coached as my kids have grown up, from youth soccer to travel soccer, Upward basketball to middle school basketball.  And I just can’t help wondering……

If all coaches could see into the future, to that very day when a kid puts away the cleats or the hi-tops for the last time and walks away from a game………would they choose to coach individual kids differently than they presently do?

Every kid walks away from their chosen sport someday…….then what?

Effective youth coaching is psychiatry and it is parenting.  Each player is unique, and they have specific needs that team sports can bring them.

Many coaches fail to fill those needs because they falsely assume they are training the next state champs.  They fail to see each child beyond that day when the sports equipment goes in the yard sale or the closet.

Shouldn’t the journey of sports teach these things and more to prepare kids for life beyond sports?

  1.  Standard of excellence
  2.  Work ethic
  3.  To believe in themselves
  4.  To trust others
  5.  The value of encouragement
  6.  To know they aren’t the center of the universe
  7.  To know that success does not come overnight (or in one practice)
  8.  To lose with dignity
  9.  To accept temporary failures without blaming others, and to realize these failures aren’t permanent
  10.  To be pushed to their physical limit, time and time again
  11.  To love and to be loved
  12.  To sacrifice for others
  13.  To respect authority and rules
  14.  Teamwork/unselfishness
  15.  To never give up

These things still matter when the cheering stops.

Maddies last stand

The cheering stopped for Maddie tonight.  Her team lost in the regional semi-finals.  In a game where she and her teammates truly “left it on the field”, the score was tied at the end of 80 minutes of regulation.  Two 5-minute overtimes later, the score was still tied.  Penalty kicks would now decide the match.

Maddie stood over the ball, ready to attempt her shot with her team facing a nearly hopeless 3-1 deficit.

If she missed this shot, the game was over.  The season was over.

Sitting on my knees beside my wife, I simply mumbled, “Maddie needs to be to one to take this shot.”

Not because it could be the game winner………because it would be the shot that would seal the loss if she missed.

I don’t know what kind of reaction or look Kristy gave me, but I went on to say, “Maddie needs to be the one to take this shot, because I know she can handle missing the shot to end the game.  She can handle it.  That’s my daughter!”

And my voice cracked at the enormity of what I was saying in a trailing voice……..”that is OUR daughter”.

She missed.  Game over.  Season over.  High school career over for her and her senior teammates.

Maddie played her heart out.  And I was so proud of her.  But when those words came out of my mouth, “that’s our daughter” it hit me so clearly.  I was not proud of her effort or her performance.

I was proud of who she has become.

She met her mother and me after the game with head held high.  That’s our daughter.

Do your best.  Have fun.  Train and play to win.  In the end it’s just a game.  The end came tonight.  I’m thankful for all those who have prepared her in the right ways to go beyond this “end”.

If you’re coaching your 1st game or your 1000th, take an occasional peek toward the end.  Winning is a by-product of doing all things the right way.  Some lessons can’t be cast aside for the sake of early wins or just because you ARE winning games.

And while your players are dreaming of making that dramatic game-winning shot, you better spend some time preparing their toughness and character……for missing it.

219 thoughts on “I Never Thought It Would End THIS Way

  1. Pingback: I Never Thought It Would End THIS Way | The Life of a Conflicted Teacher

  2. As a youth baseball coach, I really appreciate this article. Spot on! Thank you for writing this. I’d like to use it as part of my parent interaction when the spring baseball season starts, with your permission.

      • I coached high school and I coach youth(my kids). Thank you so much for writing this. It was a pleasure to read and I shared it with all the coaches and parents I deal with.

    • My son lived on the baseball diamond and he didn’t ever walk away.
      For several years, he has owned The Baseball Zone that is filled with those who enjoy the game.
      He was even in the Seoul Olympics on Canadian team. Who knows where baseball will take you??

    • As a mother of a youth that loves to play soccer, I really appreciate this article wonderfully written.
      This article was true blessing to me.

  3. As a parent of six, four of which have already gone on to play their sport of choice in college, I’ve had time to reflect back on their youth sports experiences. They’ve had good coaches and horrible coaches. As we drove passed a group of micro soccer players and parents at practice in the near dark, my high school son asked me, “Did you really stay and watch all my practices when I was that age?” I replied, “Yes I did. I wanted to watch you play. If all I cared about was whether you won or lost a game, I wouldn’t have bothered to watch the practices.” Child number four is playing college soccer out of state and I can only afford to visit her once this year. I was able to see her play two games this past weekend…..and I made sure I was there to watch practice on Saturday too.

    • That’s just it….some parents just can’t watch every practice. Some have to be at work at that time. There might even be some who have to work during the games. However, all parents I know do all in their power to be there for their child, or grandchild…and in my uncle’s case, even his great-grandchild. (How lucky is that?) My husband and I never missed a sporting event for our children, and grandchildren. It’s still on-going.

  4. Having been a soccer coach since ’85, I’ve learned that this isn’t the end. You’re just turning over a new chapter.
    A coach is always watching over your shoulder, cheering you on in Life! I love hearing from my “kids,” who now have kids of their own that are starting the game!
    Let the new chapter begin…

    • Well said. I live in a small town and see many of the kids I coached from time to time. The end is never the end. Almost all of the boys “now men” are still around and seem to of become fine young men. I always feel just maybe I had something to do with that. My own son just finished a 5 year college baseball career and was a very successful accomplished player. I believe he learned so many important lessons from the years of playing and is now ready to be a successful part of life.

  5. I am proud to say that I was. Cheerleading coach for many years. I was also fortunate enough to have a number of the same girls from the Midget program, through Junior High and then High School.
    They were all extremely talented and I was so proud when they – not me or my assistant coach- made it to Regional, States and then National Finals. No we were not the big winners of the National title but those memories are so precious to me. It has been 26 years since I last coached but thanks to Facebook I am still able to follow a lot of them. I also sometimes see them around town and it is always”Remember when we went to Pittsburgh or Virginia? Remember when we did this or that?”
    I am so proud that I played a small part in helping them turn into such fine young women

  6. I agree with everything in this article, and I would like to add to your list. We want kids to become active adults. How many play sports at a young age never wanting to continue the sport because they are burnt out, or have life altering injuries due to repetitive strain. Coaches (and we as parents who buy into the elite pressures) need to keep a balance of sport and activity for our kids. Thank you for writing about perspective.

    • So true – sometimes it’s the kids who push themselves too far, but often it’s parents doing the pushing or parents not stepping in when a coach keeps pushing. I wish I had stepped in when my son pushed himself through an injury during his senior HS track season. We had plenty of arguments that season b/c I could see the pain on his face when he tried to run and it’s difficult to tell an 18 year old who knows it’s his last chance that he just needs to shut down. He’s still dealing with that injury a year later. Maybe forever?

  7. Pingback: I Never Thought It Would End THIS Way | The UltraRunner Chronicles

  8. Reblogged this on mini2z and commented:
    It’s been almost a year since Se “retired” from Irish Dance and the life lessons she learned about winning, losing, part of a team, being a good sport will carry with her for a lifetime. It’s been longer that my son has been retired but he is now coaching hockey and I hope he’s teaching the young ones the amazing lessons that he learned from his teachers (coaches).

  9. My cousin shared this blog post on Facebook and I’m glad she did. I am still finding my place since I’m no longer the chauffeur, the bank, the one making the hotel reservations and arranging travel and seeing the friends that I made too over my children’s Irish Dance careers. I shared your post on my blog because it touched me.

  10. To all the coaches out there. I started using The Team Captain’s Leadership Manual for my girls lacrosse team last year. It is helping them discover skills beyond just being a great player. We have a duty to help these young men and women become good citizens, people, Christians, etc

  11. Best piece I have ever seen on this very important subject. Having been involved with baseball fom pre-Little League thru post Colt League, very familar with most aspects pointed out. I grew up in a very small mining town where GAMES were played by every one. I emphasize games because thats what they were to everybody, from old stove up miners to the smallest kids.
    Several years later, when becoming involved in youth baseball, it was very difficult for me to accept that it was no longer a GAME!
    Gave it all up 30 years ago, but it still leaves good feeling when a young man, now in his late 40’s /early 50’s calls me Coach. Guess I did some good.
    Larry Shull
    1973 / 1985

  12. As a dad, coach and referee of youth soccer, I know that we are building a community one person at a time through our youth sports programs, whether for good or ill. As we pour our lives out, we affect these little people whether we are aware of it or not. Thank you Karrick Dyer for sharing this perspective. God has blessed you and may you rest in that blessing.

  13. “Many coaches fail to fill those needs because they falsely assume they are training the next state champs. They fail to see each child beyond that day when the sports equipment goes in the yard sale or the closet.” I disagree. There are some coaches that are like this….and 1 is too many, but I think the majority go into for the right reasons and have the children’s needs as their first priority. I think you may have painted with too broad a brush.

    • I see your point, especially as athletes get older. At younger ages, so many coaches happen to be parents and are stuck trying to figure it out as they go. I have no gripes with anyone that’s ever coached any of my kids, but I do see plenty of failure of parents and parent/coaches to see a bigger picture (and I speak mostly from the perspective of my own failures in this area).

    • I don’t think he’s saying coaches go into it for the wrong reasons, I think he’s just saying “make sure you see beyond their sports years. Deposit the things into their character that will take them into life and adulthood. The things that are MORE important than just winning a game”.

  14. Pingback: I Never Thought It Would End THISΒ Way | Morgan's Meanderings

  15. Thanks for this article. I hope anyone who is coaching or thinking about coaching thoughtfully and carefully reads this and takes it to heart. One of my sons still hates everything about baseball because of his kindergarten coach who “teased” the boys-saying the were too young to understand his meaning. But my son got it, and refused to ever play a team sport again. My other son stated at 8 yrs old, that if we couldn’t make the screamers(parents) on the side lines stop that He was done. We couldn’t, so he was done with team sports too. Both went on to fencing and karate, but no amount of discussion or reasoning could overcome those early bad experiences. Even at 15 and 18 they haven’t forgotten and still have a pretty strong dislike of all things sport related. So coaches and parents be careful what you say-some kids never forget.

  16. Reflection & Soccer Training for Life…earlier this season here I had been delayed 2 hours by plane going to direct a conference full of attendees…ok not bad. But once I arrived I learned my 20 conference boxes went to San Fran Conference that’s in Nov!? Where was I….. in Ohio! LOL!

    The show and presenters must go on I say…! Stayin’ light on my feet I have all the documents re-printed at fedex print services (a priceless partner). My Av and hotel team, volunteers flexed with me to make it happen. I spent the entire morning re-doing all the paperwork for the attendants. Nobody likes paper anymore, just saying ! Focus I declare! What did I have with me but all the good stuff that mattered at my finger tips…registration list check, schedule and yes quilting pins to pin everybody’s name badges that I found in my suit case. ….keep the coffee and snacks moving …like kids most people are just happy with snack time. πŸ™‚

    For those of you who played sports in school someday you may reflect back. My job is like playing soccer …when your juggling a lot a balls in the air (job, life) if one ball goes astray well go get it and try re-work it to reach your goal. Stay light on you feet, keeping and passing the ball backwards and forward moving in the direction you need to go with your fellow team mates to achieve the goal you strive for.

    As even a planner by day, things may not go exactly as planned, so accept the setbacks, adapt, stay calm and rise up for the challenge a day at a time! Like soccer overtime excising patience, developing strategies, working with each other to achieve the same goal, sticking with it is the game plan, and most ultimately you got to be in the GAME to WIN mentality! I remind myself what I learned yesterday in sports and as a new coach for the young ones today. : ) This ones for you…..Don’t lose sight of that GOAL, accept you may WIN and LOSE some, just get out there and do your best! Good Luck NP U10 Boys Soccer and all others! I believe SOCCER SEASON is in session …. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzGHSbzObw0 Lisa C.

  17. As a coach, teacher, athlete and mother of younger children, thanks for sharing this! I appreciate the wisdom and the perspective this brings! I would add to your list of things that youth take away from sport: 16. A love of physical activity to keep them active and healthy throughout their lifetime.
    Thanks again for the insight!

  18. This is my fourth year coaching pee wee football and I totally agree with this article sports is about more,than just winning it’s about preparing these young kids to be good, respectful people on the field and off the field it’s about teaching them about life as well as sports love this article

  19. I just sent this message with your post to the athletic director for our flag football team. Thanks for inspiring me to finally speak up!

    My 6-year old son started flag football this year. He is struggling to learn to read, something many kids his age encounter. He often comes home from school with his confidence shaken, but when he comes home on Saturdays, he is a completely different kid. His head is held high and he is beaming with pride. He runs to the phone to tell his sports obsessed family members about the day’s achievements. Does he come off the field this way because he’s the best kid on the field? No, I’d guess even the kid who consistently runs the wrong direction feels the same way.These kids have not won a game and do not really seem to mind. They all get a chance with the ball no matter how fast or slow they will run with it. All of this is because of the coaching they are getting from a couple of dads who want to share their love of the game with these boys.

    This, contrasted with the coaching of the other pee-wee team is what brings me to my real point. While I do not believe every kid should get a trophy, I do think, at this age, the love of the game and the thrill of making the catch or pulling the flag is much more important than the eventual outcome. Throwing the ball, every time, to the fastest kid is a disservice to every one of the kids on the field – including that kid. Arguing rules, running up scores and well, taking things too seriously simply should not be tolerated at this level.

    I guess I could sit back and be happy that my son has F and D, but then I’d be just as guilty as the other side.

  20. Pingback: Something Worth Sharing | Theological Vacillation

  21. Can’t tell you how much I love this and how much I relate. Our daughter’s soccer team had the same ending 3 years ago. State semi-finals …overtime…all the way to the penalty shots. We lost as well and I had the same thoughts. Were those girls trained to handle success and failure in life? Would they find a way to move past their “glory days” of high school? Did I do enough to build character in my baby girl? Thanks for sharing and I’m passing this one along. πŸ™‚

  22. I’ve written about something similar, but not with anywhere near the impact as you. My oldest daughter finished up her swimming career last week and so many things ran through my head. She was racing another girl for a spot on this Saturday’s regional team. My daughter made some choices this summer that didn’t have anything to do with swimming, and so time wasn’t cut the way we’d hoped. It showed in this race as she came in second, nothing to be ashamed of. She’s not one to show emotion, but the realization was there on her face as to what had just taken place. It was hard not to leap down on that swim deck to just scoop her up.
    Along those same lines, this is the first year in the last seven that neither one of my daughters is playing basketball. I had the treat of coaching each of them four years, through elementary and jr. high. It’s a door that’s starting to close right now, and it just makes me reflect on where we’ve been, and where life is going.

    Thank you for putting into words what I’ve tried so hard to do myself. πŸ™‚


    • Thanks Darin. I too coached my girls in middle school basketball (that’s probably why neither of them played in high school……pick a sport your dad doesn’t think he’s an expert on?). Since our stories seem similar, you might appreciate the piece I wrote 2 years ago when my oldest was a senior “Enjoy Your Kids In Every Season”. Sorry, I’m not smart enough to post the link here.

  23. Reblogged this on SF Bay Area Soccer Dad and commented:
    For those of you, like me, still at the beginning or in the middle of your youth soccer journeys with your youngsters, here’s some perspective for parents and coaches from a dad who has arrived at the end.

    • Thanks James. This is the 2nd “end” for our family, as we have a daughter in college also. I’m sure the whole sports experience for my girls could have been so much better if I’d had a better perspective from the beginning.

  24. Thanks for sharing your heart and thoughts. This weekend I coach my son in his final Cross Country race and I have had the same thoughts you share here. Thanks for being used of the Lord, he has spread his message through you.

  25. Pingback: When It Comes To An End…By Karrick Dyer | I Love to Watch You Play

  26. Great post. Had a similar experience (he is younger, 13, so has at least a few years left in youth sports) this weekend when my son was in tight game and ended up taking free throws that could have sent the game into OT and then a shot that could have won the game but instead missed and lost to his former team and was knocked out of the playoffs. Reading your post helped in that I knew he was well equipped to deal with a miss if it happened and that this was the important thing.

  27. Pingback: I Never Thought It Would End THIS Way | Robert Robertson

  28. Thanks Karrick for sharing your inspiring thoughts. This morning when I dropped my 16yr old soccer/ice hockey playing son at school, we didn’t part with our usual “I love you” because I was mad at him for being on his phone instead of getting ready for school. I felt bad, until I read your post after which I texted him “I love you.” Of course he replied “I love you too.” Thanks again.

  29. What a great read. I have two daughters in soccer and two young boys in Football and it is so refreshing to here about others who share these views. I have coached youth basketball, baseball and football and in the end it doesn’t matter where they ended up but rather how they got there and how they handled the success or the disappointment. Thanks again.

    • I just started to captain a young team 12 under for tennis. cool article. A parent shared this article to me, i was sharing how my son and her daughter look similar by their attitude while playing…smiling even loosing points for example (like ok let s keep playing and have fun type of mood but still willing to play well of course). This article is cool πŸ™‚ I will use it πŸ™‚ thank you πŸ™‚

  30. This was a awesome read! My two oldest children have been growing up very involved in team sports. I find that the best coaches they have had thus far, think the same way. Even if they have a season with mostly losses, even my children can recognize when they have a coach that holds these things close to their heart.

  31. My daughter, by most accounts, is a fairly talented softball player. As such she has had her fair share of “glorious” moments on the field. The proudest that I have ever been of her, however, didn’t come with a game winning hit nor a game saving catch. It came while she was pitching against a superior hitting team. Relentlessly, they just kept crushing ball after ball after ball. I later asked the coach why he left her in. He advised me that based on the situation, changing pitchers would not have been a viable option since the back up pitchers, who were talented in their own right, would not have been able to emotionally endure the onslaught that was taking place. Additionally, he added, the look of determination on her face made him realize that there was no way in hell that she was going to come out of the game. She was in a figurative chess match against a superior opponent who was unknowingly making her a better pitcher, player, and (most importantly) person. While watching her get shelled was heartbreaking to watch, it became a defining moment in both of our lives. For her, it established a sense of character from which she has since grown. For me, it established a sense of pride in knowing that her character will ultimately help her stand up to whatever challenges life will most suredly bring.

    • Great story. Coaching the “looks on the girls’ faces” usually has more value than coaching by their actions or the scoreboard. Glad the coach recognized the look on your daughter’s face and coached her beyond that single game or single moment.

  32. Karrick, I sent you a Facebook friend request because I wanted to share with you my blog for today. It is mostly your blog about Maddie’s last game and the larger implications of that. Like you, I write a blog, actually daily. I am a Christian grandpa, and a retired gym teacher and coach. My grandsons, 11 and 13 are heavily involved in club basketball, and your blog was really significant to me. If you are willing, I’d love to interact with you. Either through Facebook or by e-mail.

    God Bless

    Bruce Hanson


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  34. you know you have to wonder if she made that if you would even post this blog about losing today. people win an people lose that is the way it goes, but to some parents they always have to justify the reason for it. well at least you feel good.

    • If she makes the shot, the chances are still slim that we win. The burden of the game-ending shot goes to someone else. It’s not about feeling good. It’s about preparing kids for life beyond sports. I’ve seen kids wallow on the ground for an hour after they missed that shot or the goalie that failed to stop that shot. It’s great when kids are disappointed with defeat (but not CRUSHED) and know that their best IS good enough….and they can move on.

      • I hope my daughters high school basketball coach reads your article and learns from it. My daughter is one of the most positive people I know, always smiling being helpful and working hard and loved youth sports. High school sports was miserable for her simply because her coach was more interested in his agenda than the kids. I’m sad to say that when the talent on the team all graduated he left to coach at another school. I hope he figures it out soon, but I doubt he ever will.

  35. Pingback: Are You Ruining Sports For Your Kid? – ModernMom

  36. Three weeks ago on the eve our Senior Night celebrations I had the pleasure of reading this entry on your blog. I shared it with many of my friends and commented on how important the points of this story are as we celebrated 12 years of soccer with your boys. Little did I know that it was God preparing me for what would happen three weeks later. The day started with a photo flashback on my facebook newsfeed of a picture I had posted on facebook exactly one year earlier of my eldest in a team picture from first grade with three of the boys with whom he still plays. Immediately, I thought of your blog and the life lessons that we hope our children learn from competitive sports. It was a subtle reminder of how far they had come on the very day that they would play for the state sectional championship. That day would end exactly as your blog had described for Maddie but in this case for my son and his teammates. I want to thank you for preparing me for that day, because I too knew that he would be capable of handling the miss. I am proud of all that he has become. Yes, it stung but no it will not defeat his spirit. I truly believe that God was sending me the message with that team picture that morning to remember your words and keep things in perspective. Thank you.

  37. My daughters high school soccer career ended this past Saturday, Nov. 14. in the semi-finals for state champion. We are tremendously proud of her and her teammates for playing their hearts out. They too went to PK’s after 110 minutes of playing. She also missed her PK in the end. It was a heartbreaking loss and I think I’m more devastated over it than she is. She has shown incredible resilience and care for her younger teammates and wherever she winds up playing in college I know she will continue to be a leader. Thank you for these words. I read them weeks ago and I read it again today.

  38. This is a must read for all coaches involved in any sport. I had the pleasure of coaching little league for fourteen years won some lost some but the most satisfying of all wa years later all these young men still talk about their time playing for me and now that their children are involved they understand it is still just a game.

    • Great story! cross-country is a little easier because it’s almost never over. Yes, it’s great when you see a kid in a local race or better coaching and the best is them officiating or volunteering. Thanks for coaching and congratulations to you daughter for going as far as they did.

  39. Pingback: Ending THIS way was not exactly what this dad expected | Ryan Taylor

  40. I am the Coach and also the dad of the seven foot fellow that wrote and produced the “Coaches Wives Doc.” He sure has made myself and his mom very proud. My career in coaching in High School and also 5 years of basketball at Campbellsville Univ. in Kentucky ended up to a total of 32 years. My wife who was a first grade teacher, if you saw the film we had a part in, she was the one that kept us afloat. We have together 66 years total working with young folks. One never knows what young folks will end up doing. I have purchased kids girlfriends Christmas presents, hauled them to practice or a game and then later to their home. One of my former athletes is a Federal Judge, one of them played professional basketball overseas, one was the quarterback for the Univ. of Kentucky and lots of doctors, lawyers as well as one a policeman in Lexington, Ky. Coaching in a small Ky. school sure was demanding. I coached cross-country, golf, football, tennis and basketball through those years. I ended up being the Athletic Director at that school. Sure had some “Frost” on lots of my evening meals because being out with kits for games through most of those days. Lot of positive things I have witnessed during those years. The only negative thing, during those years was seeing drugs harm lots of kids in our country. Hopefully things will get better with this issue. Somehow GOD directed me in this profession. It was a good ride. Coach Moore

  41. This is a fantastic article! We run a competitive Soccer Club in Fullerton, CA and your article speaks to the core of our Club philosophy. We would like to use it with your permission.

  42. Pingback: Teaching character – Eldon's Porch

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