Just over a year ago my wife, Laree, and I started down the parenting road. All the stories you hear about new parents with an infant are true and they are happening in our house on a daily basis. The sleepless nights, the constant fear of doing something wrong, the diapers…ohh the diapers. Along the way this little boy has either taught me or reminded me many life lessons, some that I have put into practice in my daily life, as a dad, a husband, but even more than I could expect: as a coach and a teacher.
As a coach and a teacher I have found myself engrossed and reflective about how I teach and instruct all my students and student-athletes. How do we teach the kids that are visual learners?; How do I relate modern forms of communication?; etc. As Laree and I dove into our first foray of parenthood we filled our ever-fading free time exploring any books, articles, publications and interviews we could with information on the methodology of parenthood. After 12 months of having me as his parent, I think my son would tell me, "keep it simple, don’t over think it dad. Use your instincts." While we can do all the research we want there is no substitute for knowing your players, your students, your children; knowing how they learn and what they can handle. He has reminded me to revert to my instincts and knowledge to do what is best. Keep it simple!
We live in an era of immediate gratification. We want live scores, live tweets, Facebook live. We want our friends to text us back immediately and our emails to get responded to after work hours. We live for immediacy and a one-year-old just doesn't understand the pace of the world around them. My son is now walking, but when he began crawling Laree and I started to prepare the baby proofing of the house. As we saw our son push to all fours. For eight weeks he would chip away at it, practicing his crawling technique to where he could go backwards and turn, but not forwards. He would cry in frustration that he could not move to what toy he wanted, but every day he kept trying. His persistence finally paid off. In a matter of 72 hours he went from crawling to standing on his own. His new found freedom is accompanied by his wide-gummed grim as he harasses the dog and gets into everything that we thought we had put out of reach. My son’s persistence reminds me that sometimes the things we want most take the longest to achieve and his smile reminds me that the things you put the most time into often give you the most rewards. You will fall down, a lot, but get back up and try again.
My son knows nothing other than to be happy. You can call it a sort of blissful ignorance. He doesn't have bills to pay, work to get done or a house to manage. He doesn't know anything about the current political climate and he has never been in an argument. Instead he smiles. He smiles when he wakes up, he smiles before bed. He smiles when he has food all over his face and he smiles in the bath. He even smiled when he had the flu. I don’t know if you are like me, but I am miserable when I have a common cold, I certainly do not crack a smile when I have the flu. In fact, one of his first emotions he showed was his smile. There is stat floating around that a child his age smiles about 400 times a day (and he usually sleeps half the day). An adult on the other hand averages 20 smiles a day. His smile has helped me gain a new perspective, a new priority system in my life. I no longer get worked up or lose sleep (I am too tired not to sleep) over small issues that in the past would have caused me to. I no longer react as quickly or as forcibly to an issue that might come up, instead I try to smile. I started to realize that smiling is infectious and that you can change the mood of others around you, in fact, you can change the mood of a whole soccer team with just one smile. Don't worry, be happy.
I could certainly attend conferences with other coaches to talk about methods, formations, leadership and team building, instead I have found a refreshing teacher in my one-year-old son. Becoming a parent has forced me to look critically at myself, how I want to be perceived, how I communicate and my own level of happiness. Before you go in search of the newest book, the newest technique, the most insightful trending speaker, take a look at the people who influence you and your work every day, you never know where your best professional development sessions may come from, sometimes it could be from someone who can't even talk yet.
Russ Schouweiler, Luther College head women's soccer coach/HPE instructor, is in his eighth year of coaching. He led the Norse to the 2016 Iowa Conference regular season and tournament championship and the team's first appearance in the NCAA DIII National Tournament. He has lead the Norse to an overall record of 76-49-7, which includes 14 wins in 2014 and 13 wins in both 2015 and 2016. Schouweiler took over the Norse Program after serving two years as an assistant women's coach at Macalester College. Twice during his tenure his staff has been named Iowa Conference Coaching Staff of the Year. Schouweiler, a 2005 Luther graduate, lives in Decorah with his wife, Laree, and son.