Hi, my name is Ben and I’m an addict. I’ve had this problem for years, but I was never willing to admit it was an addiction until a Memorial Day bender that left my eyes bloodshot, voice hoarse —
At risk of spoiling the suspension of disbelief, I’m going to stop here to disclaim that what I’m describing is not a chemical or clinical addiction. The last thing I would want to do is trivialize substance abuse or mental illness; we all know people who are addicts, whether they seek us out as part of their recovery, work the steps anonymously, self-medicate or suffer in silence. Mine is a privileged problem, a charmed challenge; indulge the inelegant introspection in pursuit of empathy —
I’m addicted to choaching. Choaching is that intoxicating, alienating combination of cheering and coaching. Choaching is most prevalent among parents attending children’s games, meets or matches — particularly of sports they played growing up. I don’t choach Berkley Dads baseball, for example, because I don’t know the game of baseball and baseball is a silly game. Soccer though …
Choaching is both a psychological syndrome and sociological phenomenon — prone, by its very nature, to be passed down the sidelines and generations. Choaching has no diagnostic or linguistic relationship to choking, though La Croix Cough is symptomatic. Choaching not a pretty word. Choaching is not a pretty sight.
For most people, choaching is not an addictive behavior. How do I know I am a choachoholic? The same way other addicts (of, again, much more severe substances and aggravated actions) do. You can’t moderate, mitigate or manage — even as you can peer, through the fog, at the harm it does to those around you.
Game after game I would tell myself, “It’s a beautiful fall/spring day for soccer. Just ‘kick’ back and have a ‘ball’ — go ahead and cheer for your son/daughter when they score/save a goal. But don’t pace up and down the sidelines shouting instructions, projecting your voice across the field and repeating everything emphatically, like all of history’s great coaches.”
Then the soccer game starts, and I go into a choaching trance of “Clear it out of the box. Out. Of. The. Box. widewidewide, up the line, up The LINE, service service, service and find a shot, unlucky-unlucky, recover now recover!”
At the Canton Cup (“Spoiling your Memorial Day weekend plans since 1982!”), my choaching spiraled. One ref threatened to give me a yellow card and kick out our coach because I was so thorough in explaining to him the error of his ways and suggesting he may be dehydrated or otherwise disoriented. But after three hard-fought games in the punishing heat amidst so many McMansions, we (they) made the championship game.
My in-laws drove back from Traverse City, arriving just minutes into the game, at which point my wife called me from a designated parking area somewhere between the field and Ikea to let me know she could hear me shouting from there. Then, after a questionable overtime handball call, I dropped an audible F-bomb whose mushroom cloud might have triggered the alarms of so many minivans.
Was this choach-rock bottom? I am blessed to have a wife who will tell me I’m being an ass without kicking me out on my ass; a son who, having long since surpassed me in what coaches and trainers technically refer to as “talent,” loves the game notwithstanding my broken promises about letting the coach coach, the ref ref and the players play; and a daughter who finds me amusing.
Sometimes the people who most need you to change are the ones who enable your destructive behavior.
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