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Why do I do it? Look inside a coach’s mind and heart

Disclaimer: I’ve never taken a class on “Coaching 101.”


Sports teams have paid coaches. The coach doesn’t consult the players or the parents. Decisions made by the coach are final.

Paid Positions

I am a volunteer coach. The payment I receive is not financial.

Watching kids step out of their comfort zone is my payment. At a recent competition, one girl was listed as the alternate on our team. Another team was short a player. What if our alternate joined their team? I suggested this as a solution. She contemplated leaving our team, her comfort zone. After self-reflection, she said yes! As fate would have it, her “new” team played against our team first round. They beat us! Hmmm, had we kept her, would the outcome have been different? Most likely. But competing isn’t always about the score. I felt paid-in-full watching this individual’s self-victory!

Collaborating on a Solution

Before joining another team was an option, we brainstormed how to handle our extra player. Who would sub out? I invited the youth to problem solve. Not every teenager is used to having a voice in decision making. Some participated while others chose not to. After thoughtful discussion and rationalization, one presented the proposal to everyone. Even though the proposal was rejected, listening and watching the youth work through a real-world problem was a satisfying payment.


When rejected with a flat out “No,” the designated speaker looked with alarm and concern at me. What now? Pause. Breathe. All I could think was, “I’m JUST a volunteer. I didn’t sign up for ‘no’.” But those girls each took a deep breath and one by one, offered to sit out the whole competition so that the naysayer could play. Generous. Gracious. Teenagers are still learning skills of negotiation. But, is any one team player bowing out of the entire competition due to one person’s ‘no’ in the best interest of youth development and teamwork? As some girls said, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” Still, my payment was a heart filled with pride and joy at the girls’ selflessness.


Balancing the big picture of youth development with the detail of “Let’s compete!” is not easy. Not every coach would allow for youth discussion nor would most coaches consult parents. Creating space for community involvement definitely added to my stress level. The outcome of “No” offered an opportunity for me to grow as a coach. I prepared to step into a more traditional coaching role. No more drawing out from the youth but rather shifting into what it means to be on a team. Take charge. Make executive decisions. Ultimately, the coach’s decision is final. And obeying a coach (or a parent or even a boss) is a valuable life skill for every youth to master.

PS Luckily, I only had to think that through and not act on it, since our alternate was eventually able to compete on another team. It was an enriching balance process for me to move myself through.


Teamwork can be hard. Many teams have a “bench” of alternates. Sitting on the bench can be just as vital as the captain’s role. Listening and respecting a coach are not always easy. I see a lot of parallels to life. Sometimes we are the captain of our own destiny and other times we may feel like we are spectating from the bench. Life is a journey filled with easy and hard, ups and downs. Whenever I feel excluded or like I’m not needed/valued, I evaluate my choice. “Should I stay or should I go?” Being on a team (or a committee or at a job) is a choice.


Why do I do it?

Because I was able to volunteer while volunteering. I graded tests from different counties/states. I met other coaches from Montana, South and  North Dakota. I networked with the county teams from Minnesota.


Because I traveled with my husband and our daughter 1200 miles in a suburban with three others. We connected with 4-H families on a deeper level than happens at a county meeting. Our cultural horizons expanded into ranching/farming. Food and fellowship filled the social and emotional bank accounts.


Because I was “Mama Cindy” to five girls. When our junior team placed first in the morning competition with individual 1st and 4th placings plus our young senior individual placed second,…I tell ya, those hugs and looks of delight were priceless. Someone asked me how I felt and I said “tearfully proud.” When they lost in the afternoon competition, they demonstrated sportsmanship and stayed to learn and observe the next round.


I am a volunteer coach. I bring my all to help the team learn and grow in equine knowledge but also in life. My heart overflows with payment.


 2019 Cindy Goldade, In-Motion Intelligence

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