By Rachel Terrill, Player Engagement Insider
What do NFL players want most from those who coach their children?
NFL Legend Michael Koenen’s five children will soon be among the over 21 million US children who participate in youth sports each year. Koenen a former punter, who played for the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, reveals what is most important to him in this open letter to the coaches who may someday coach his children.
You will soon be entrusted with some of the most important people in my life, my children. Their mother and I have huge dreams for them. You will be a big part of who and what they become. Coach, you will be one of the most influential people in my children’s lives. We need to have the same game plan.
My wife and I work hard to instill certain qualities in our children such as great character, integrity, respect, and love for one another. Sports are a great avenue for them to learn those lessons.
So, while you give your time in the present with them, please think about their futures and who they will one day become. While there will be some great times within the sports season, sports will never be my child’s final destination. They will live for more. Who they will be as men and women will be largely because of your impact in their lives.
Second, I need you to lead by example. My children will learn more from how you live than from what you say. I’m trying to teach my children how to love their future spouse, so I need you to love your spouse and give them priority in your life.
I want my children to make good decisions, even when it is not easy. I need you to do the right thing, even when opportunity presents itself to make a different choice.
I’m trying to teach my children to love their neighbor and to show respect to authority, so I need you to show my children, and those around you, constant love and encouragement. I realize that emotions run high sometimes, but I need you to be strong in who you are and confident in times of trial.
I’m trying to teach my children that who they are is not wrapped up in what they do or in how many wins or losses they have on the field, but in who God created them to be every day of their lives. Coach, every child was created in the image of our almighty perfect God to be in fellowship with Him. My children are strong, courageous, beautiful, loved, smart, created in Christ Jesus for good works. This was decided before they were born, before they ever fell in love with your sport.
Lastly, let’s redefine success. There is so much more for my children in this life than winning or losing on a ball field. Help teach them the value of hard work and how to prepare for competition. While you are pushing them to be their best, I need you to show them grace and patience as if they were your own child as they learn new skills and push their bodies to the limits. If my children have given the game all they have to give, and kept a great attitude, we have succeeded.
Teach my children that when they lose they can still win by showing great character and maturity. Show them that when they give something all their effort, they can hold their heads high and know that the loss does not define them. Teaching them that losing is a part of the process of growth. Teach them that losing helps sharpen their character. When you win, show them how to be humble in victory and how to show respect for the people who lost. There will be many victories in life, and they are awesome, but neither the losses nor the wins define them. If you teach my children maintain humility and respect, we will have won.
Coach, the Bible says to raise a child in the way they should go and they will not depart from it. Matthew 16:26 asks, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” We are not raising athletes to play a sport; we are raising Godly men and women to make a difference in this world.
Coach, we are in this together. Thank you for all your personal sacrifices that you make daily to coach my children. I entrust them to you and I believe you, Coach!
NFL Legend Michael Koenen played in the National Football League from 2005-2015. He and his wife, Devin, have five children.
Dubbed “Dr. Love” for her work on relationships, Rachel Terrill is passionate about making marriages work. For over twelve years, Rachel has written about relationships and marriages of professional athletes. She earned her Ph.D. in Communication and she teaches university courses on communication and public speaking. Rachel also serves as a family advisor for the NFL Players Health Study at Harvard University. Her work is featured in radio, television, online, and print publications. Rachel is the wife of Craig Terrill, who played for the Seattle Seahawks from 2004-2011. You can reach her at www.rachelterrill.com