Coaching helps weave a lifelong constant

If you haven’t caught it yet from reading my column, I am a sports fan.

I was a solid-C athlete growing up, but loved playing baseball, football and basketball. I collected sports cards voraciously, and with pen and paper, I created my own version of fantasy football and fantasy baseball before they were actually a thing. My college roommates and I, some of whom are now high school coaches, used to draw up plays while watching games on TV.

From well before my generation, sports have always been a key part of my life.

When my two daughters were born, I naturally knew I’d spread my love of sports onto them. We signed my older daughter up for soccer, T-ball and dance as soon as we could. Being a guy who has never been one to sit on the sideline, I signed up to coach T-ball and soccer, adding basketball into the mix when Isabelle was old enough to start taking shots.

When Isabelle grew to really love soccer, I kept coaching her along the way, researching and learning a sport I never played, even forming a travel team with other parents to help her and her friends continue to grow.

I moved here to Tiffin halfway through her spring soccer season, my last as coaching the Gaylord Freeze team. During weekends, I headed back to Northern Michigan to see my family, who was also finishing up school, and to coach. The final game saw my daughter play her best game of the season and the team honor me with a framed photo.

It was one of the most rewarding projects of my life, taking a team from winning no games its first season to winning a majority of its games the third.

Knowing part of a strong transition for Isabelle meant connecting her to things she loved from her past life, we found a soccer club for her here in the area and she continues to play. I have stepped aside as coach for now. I enjoy watching her games from the sideline, where I have to admit is a far less stressful place to be than behind the bench. She’s in the presence of a knowledgable coach, who actually played the game at a high level, and she’s made a batch of new, great friends.

But I have to admit that despite the clutter of having a new job, new school and new life, I miss coaching. So, I signed up to be a volunteer coach in the Tiffin YMCA’s Junior Cavs basketball program. I look at it as quality time with my daughter, and chance for me to get out and get some exercise, while doing something I enjoy doing, helping children find a love of teamwork and sports.

I know I’m not the best coach in the world — many others know the games better and many others are better with kids — but I’m excited to give back in this small way. Having coached so many kids in Michigan, I will always be paying attention to the local papers there, smiling when one of my former athletes does something great, on the field or outside of it. I’m excited to have that connection with kids down here, too.

I continue to learn and grow in the area of balance. I know that I could sit in my office for more hours than I’d care to admit and still have things left to do, but I’ll be a better leader and family man if I find positive ways to pursue interests outside of the office.

I encourage everyone to connect with the child version of themselves. Through sports, I’ve been able to weave a constant thread throughout my life while finding the reward of sharing my experiences with the next generation.

Jeremy Speer is the publisher of The Advertiser-Tribune. He can be reached at jspeer@advertiser-tribune.com