Last night my team had their first practice of the season. This year, after spending the last four years coaching boys at the high school ranks, I am coaching basketball at the middle school level. Right now I am coaching a seventh grade girls team, and after Christmas the plan is to coach the eighth grade boys team.
One of the young men who played for me the last three years is hosting a basketball tournament for his senior project, and part of his project includes job shadowing me at practice. He will be with me most of this week and a little bit next week, and since he already knows all of the drills, and all of my teaching points, I put him to work. The girls call him coach.
There is a passage of Scripture that hangs on the wall of my office that speaks to why I coach and spend time with young people, young men in particular. Once when I was reading the Bible this text spoke to me, and like with other passages of Scripture that speak to me I got out a 3 x 5 card, wrote the words down, and stuck the card on my wall with a thumbtack. The text being referenced is found in Titus 2:6 and in the New Living Translation the words are translated as “In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely.”
Of the many life lessons I try to bestow on the young people I get to work with, how to shake hands is one of them. It is usually a quick tutorial, followed by lots of practice, and since I think knowing how to properly shake hands is important, I teach. The lots of practice comes in to play every time I see one of the young men or women I have had the privilege of coaching. When I greet them, I shake their hands. I started teaching some of the girls last night when I introduced myself to them, and one of these days we will have a chat about hand shaking in more detail followed by a quick tutorial.
The guys that have played for me know they are going to get a hand shake from me, sometimes a hug, but most of the time a hand shake. Last night, when practice was over, and the young man who was helping me was ready to go, he simply walked up to me and while saying thank you for letting me be there he stuck out his hand for me to shake. Of course I obliged, and like he always does, he shook my hand correctly. Eye contact was made, the right amount of grip and firmness was there, we didn’t linger in awkwardness, we just shook hands, and then walked out of the gym talking about how impressed we both were by the girls and their work ethic and eagerness to learn.
I don’t know about you, but I can tell a lot about how a person shakes hands. I know I’m not supposed to judge but there is truth in the saying that “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” I had a meeting with someone not long ago, and after our initial meeting which involved a hand shake I was tainted for the rest of our time together. I lose interest after an unimpressive hand shake and probably write people off to quickly before realizing that not everyone has been taught the proper way to shake hands.
Coaches, working with young people in a sport is about so much more than the sport. We have the opportunity to teach young people how to live wisely, which might include the ability to shake hands properly.