A Coach Teaches Resiliency, By Practicing It Himself

Scott Hayes is an Air Force veteran serving as an Up2Us Sports coach in Los Angeles at the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation. Read his own words on a recent experience with one of his kids and how he was able to use the training he has received through Up2Us Sports to positively impact the situation.

The summer can be a time when our kids have the time of their lives and experience memorable life-changing moments. This past summer, our Sheriff’s Youth Activities League played host to our annual basketball tournament. It’s held on two consecutive Wednesdays in July. The first week we seed the teams while the second consists of the playoffs and championship game. Several YAL’s from Southern California participate to see who can win it all.

A week prior to our tournament, my kids visited another center for a scrimmage. One of my more athletically gifted kids, Ruben Blajos, has had a penchant for letting his emotions get the best of him during times of increased pressure. During the game, Ruben had an altercation with another player and the two exchanged heated words. A few days later, I spoke with him about keeping his emotions in check. On game day, we played our style of basketball and pulled away with a 14 point victory. However, the next game didn’t go as planned. They team was up big early, but slowly let the lead dwindle. During a critical play, Ruben felt he got fouled and didn’t get the call. He lost his cool and became irate with the official. The wave of anger poured over the rest of the team, and rather than maintaining their poise, they chose to challenge every call after that. We ended up losing by 4.

After the game, many of them were upset. Their confidence was gone. I told them they lost that game the moment they lost control of their emotions. Soon after, I contacted Jacob Toups from Up2Us Sports and explained the situation. As we talked, he went step by step into possible reasons why it happened and ways I can redirect my team's state of mind into one that is beneficial in overcoming obstacles. We talked about being resilient and holding one another accountable for our actions.

Later, Ruben revealed that he had never won at any sport. Right away that struck a chord with me. I, too, have lost more games than I have won. I know what it’s like to come up short for a championship. I told Ruben, “you can’t let your losses and successes define you, we learn from our mistakes and move forward.” I decided to ask him to be an example for the younger kids on the team. I had hoped that giving him more of a responsibility would challenge him to be a stronger leader. The next week, everything seemed to click. Ruben led many of our younger players and we cruised through the playoffs with our new found confidence.

During the championship game, we got our first test. We fell behind early. I could sense the frustration with Ruben and the team. At half time I asked them to remember our talk about being resilient. I reminded them to believe in themselves and our game plan. We immediately went on a run to tie the game. It went back and forth but in the final few minutes we pulled away to win the championship! Our kids were so excited. Amongst the team’s jubilation, I spotted Ruben holding the championship trophy with tears streaming down his face. It was truly a great moment.

If the story ended there it’d perfect, but life is more complicated. Ruben recently got into an altercation with a student at school. I was disappointed in him and with myself. But then I recalled the lesson about resiliency and perseverance. My deputy and I had a talk with him about his actions and discovered he’d been in contact with the Marines. He has family in the military, so it’s not completely new to him. And because of my military background, I’ve been able to connect with him and prepare him if he chooses to take that path. Nevertheless, whatever he decides, I promised him that I’d be there to have his back. I’ve learned through Ruben and my YAL kids that as their coach, the most important thing I can do is to be resilient for them and exemplify the attributes I ask of them.