Many of our youth grow up without strong images of men in their home. This void is filled with gang influence that leads to fulfilling the pipeline to prison that seems to have been designed for our children. There are those that find this influence through the camaraderie of sports and the leadership and example that a coach can provide.
Christopher Loving is head coach of the HF (Homewood Flossmoor) Vikings Elite. We asked him a few questions about his experience.
In what ways has coaching prepared you to guide your athletes on and off the field?
Coaching has prepared me to guide athletes on and off the field by putting me in a position to prepare for all situations. I spend a lot of time preparing for practice and games. I look at a game schedule and I immediately start working on a road map to the post season. I work with my coaching staff on a plan and we work with the team to execute those plans. I set goals with the team at the beginning of the season and we prepare to reach our goals as a team.
In life, it takes preparation to be successful. This simple tool is a great application for reaching your life goals off the field. I’d like to think that my players learn preparation from me so they can follow the road map to reach their dreams.
How does a coach and father understand the process of allowing room for growth?
As a coach and a father I totally understand allowing room for growth. As a parent and a coach, I give my players and children the tools to be successful on and off the field. Things don’t always go according to plan. But I keep a level head and work through situations on the field. Life is the exact same way. I work really hard at developing resilience in my players and children so that they can adapt through life’s curveball. I have adopted the “play through it” mantra on the field. I believe my players need to face adversity and figure it out with minimal guidance. Most of my players I’ve been coaching since they were 7 or 8 years old. Now that they are 12 and 13, they know our system. They have a strong understanding of the game of football. Often times during a time out or change of possession, I will ask my players what they are seeing on the field. I’ll get their input and let them figure out adjustments. As a coach I will guide them, but at this level, I allow them to adapt to adversity. We also talk a lot about this off the field as well.
What role does decision-making play in being a great coach or father?
Great decision making skills go hand-in-hand with being a coach and a father. You have to make good decisions with players and children. Sometimes the most popular thing to do is not the easiest thing to do. As a father, you have to make decisions that will make a positive impact on your family. Teaching your kids and your players right from wrong is very important.
How do you inspire your child or athlete to maintain focus in order to win?
I inspire my child, who is an amazing student-athlete, to maintain focus in order to win by developing him as a leader. I teach him about being a great teammate. I teach him never allow outside forces derail him from the game. No matter what the other team does, no matter what the refs do, you play through the adversity. I teach him to rise above all and focus on the task at hand. I also inspire him by incorporating a heavy dose of teaching him about the great players that have come before him like Walter Payton, Ray Lewis, and Barry Sanders.
How do you offer encouragement when the child or athlete faces adversity?
When being faced with adversity, I never scold my child or athletes. When they are in the moment, they are already under enough stress. So talking to them in a calm tone and working through the situation is most effective. I give an encouraging word or two and we talk it through and make adjustments.
Last year I had a kid that never played quarterback before. But he worked hard and earned the starting position. On the day of the 1st game, I made it a point to call him just to settle his nerves. I told him to play in the moment. I also told him that he is going to make a mistake and that’s okay. We can work through the mistakes, but it’s more about how you work through the adversity that is going to carry you through. Sure enough, during the game he through an interception during the game. When he came off the field, I told him there now you made your mistake, but your team had your back. Now calm down and keep playing. Needless to say we won that game 19-6.
Tell us what you love most about being a dad.
What I love most about being a dad is spending a great amount of time with my children and watching them grow. I want my children to achieve their goals and experience all the things I didn’t do with my father. It brings me so much joy watching my son electrify the grid iron. I have a big smile on my face watching my 9 month old daughter reach new milestones everyday. Both of my children keep me going everyday. But most of all, my children push me to be the best person that I can be.
What advice do you have for new dads?
For any new dad out there I would say enjoy the ride. Stand up and own your responsibility. Children [don’t ask] to be born. So being an active part of your children’s lives will help to make for a better society. Provide every opportunity you can. Even if you can’t make it happen financially, still invest your time and provide wisdom to your children.