The Potato Chip Incident
I ran the 8th grade soccer try-outs last week, and it was a stressful time both for me and for the forty-three prospective players that I had to evaluate . . . so when I received an e-mail Wednesday night from a disgruntled player that had the words "belittled" and "disrespected" in the first line, I took it quite hard, but then by the second line I knew this was not the kid writing to me, but a parent posing as the kid, because of the the phrase "to have a grown man embarrass a thirteen year-old boy in front of all his peers is truly not something I would have expected from a coach" and then by the third line I knew that this was something even more bizarre than an irate e-mail from a parent posing as a kid, as the reason cited for the narrator's anguish was "the potato chip comment"; I read the e-mail to my wife, at a loss as to what it meant or what had happened, as I remembered this particular player as being a bit chubby and unable to keep up with the running-- so much so that I never actually spoke to him (I run with the kids and so if you're at the front of the pack, then you get the added bonus of being able to chat with me . . . otherwise, I'm setting up drills and small sided scrimmages and taking notes on players) and so I sent an apologetic e-mail back to the "kid" saying I was sorry he felt this way, but that I only remembered showering the players with compliments (they're the strongest group I've ever had) and that perhaps he misheard or misunderstood, as I did not recall any "potato chip" comment or even remember making any comment to him . . . and then a few minutes after sending the e-mail, I remembered what had happened-- and if you're expecting another Awkward Moment of Dave, you're going to be disappointed-- while we were running full field sprints at the end of practice, this player went down to a knee in the middle of the field and started rubbing his leg and so I jogged over to him and asked him if he had a calf cramp and he confirmed this, and so I said-- as I've said to players a thousand times before-- "Okay, keep rubbing it, drink lots of water, and when you go home, eat a banana or some some potato chips" and then the rest of us ran on and I explained to the players that bananas have potassium and potato chips have sodium and potassium, and those minerals help with cramps (I could have also recommended kale, but 8th graders aren't usually partial to obscure leafy greens) and-- thinking back-- I'm sure the chubby kid with the calf-cramp missed the nutritional component of my advice, as he was in a world of pain that only a calf-cramp can create, and so I sent another e-mail to the "player" explaining that when I told him to "go home and eat a banana or some potato chips" that I was being serious because these foods cure cramps and I included a link to a web-site that explained the physiological reasons for this, and I explained that I was in no way belittling him or disrespecting him . . . and I am guessing that the kid didn't interpret the comment this way either, but that when he went home, he told his mom that try-outs were very difficult and that he got a cramp and that the coach told him to "go home and eat potato chips" and his mom-- who is probably more sensitive about the kid's weight than the kid is-- interpreted the tone of this phrase for the kid-- she heard this as me telling her chubby son that he was worthless and should "go home and eat potato chips"-- and so she wrote the angry e-mail that unfairly accused me of picking on a thirteen year old . . . and what really gets my goat is that once again, I am owed an apology and I'm never going to get it, because the kid never showed up to try-outs again and the mom never wrote back explaining how sorry she was, either posing as her son, or-- as she should do-- as herself, but this time contrite and penitent.