I recently had a teachable moment with my 13-year-old son. He was frustrated by the fact that one of our dogs, Callie—a Great Pyrenees—was leaving a record of her travels throughout the house in the form of soft white fur.

He was tired of waking up with fur in his mouth, fur on his clothes, and generally fur everywhere. He was mad at Callie and he reprimanded her for lounging on the couch. I asked him if he thought that the dog left her fur everywhere just to annoy him.

After a bit more discussion, I then asked him if, in fact, Callie had any control over where and when the fur came off. We talked about the fact that I had found his hair in places and that he lost skin that turned into dust every day as well. 

I then told him, “How you treat Callie is based on something that she has no control over.”

There was a long pause. An elephant-sized pregnant pause.

Not sure where to go from there, I decided to use examples of players that he knew I had coached. I asked him to tell me why they had become better players. We talked about the fact that they had played for other coaches and other programs. I asked him what the difference was.

He said, “Because you want to make each of your players better.” 

I was proud of the response, but I had to probe further. 

“Dad, you like to win.”

Me: “Well, doesn’t everyone like to win?”

Son: “Yeah, but when we win, it is as a team, and for Team North Texas.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Son: “Well, you help us win.”

Me: “How is that different than wanting you to win?”

He said it was different, because “you care about all of the players.”

At this point, I took a step to the place where no good lawyer or teacher goes. I asked a question to which I did not know the answer.

“Do you think there are some players on our team that I don’t care about?”

I had just opened Pandora’s box. I asked the question again to myself as my life flashed before my eyes.

Interestingly, my life as it flashed by was defined by moments of coaching and teaching. What was truly amazing was that there were two different answers. 

First, there was the way I used to coach: negative, insulting and based on the scoreboard. 

Then, enter stage right: the Positive Coaching Alliance. By embracing the Double-Goal Coach philosophy, the joy of coaching for winning and life lessons revived my heart. My responsibilities to each and every player and parent became “Claritin clear.”

After a moment of thought, my son responded. “There are no players that you don’t like. Sometimes you don’t like what they do, but our handshake at the end of practice lets us leave the bad stuff behind.”

I have always known that I cannot be objective about my own children, so I don’t ask other parents to be objective about theirs. When I dropped my sons off at lacrosse practice, I just wanted to be sure that the person I entrusted them to would value them the way that I did. That didn’t mean that they would necessarily share my same grandiose expectations. It meant that they would care for them unconditionally, and even relish in the characteristics that some might see as shortcomings, oddities or annoying habits, like Callie’s shedding.

As a double-goal leader, I have learned three important lessons:

One size never fits all.

The difficult decisions are usually the right ones.

And, most importantly…

I must leave my own personal goals and desires behind in order to clearly see what is best for the group.

Ask yourself, “Are there some kids that I don’t care about?” Accept the responsibility to cherish each team member’s unique gifts as valuable contributions to the collective whole.

I walked into a dark corner, alone. Once and for all, I left my personal goals at the door. It was not an easy thing to do.

I think I came out in a better place. Will you?

Wendell Lee is the director of programs at US Lacrosse. Suggest topics for future parent blog posts in the comments section.