Catalyst Coaches
/ Author: Joshua Pastoor
/ Categories: Guide magazine /
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Catalyst Coaches

The impact of coaches, whether in sports or at work, is impossible to overstate.

By Josh Pastoor

My nine-year-old son was so excited to start playing volleyball. In the weeks leading up to his first team game, he eagerly practiced at home, hitting the ball around with me and his older siblings. 

On the day of the big game, I left the office early and drove over to the school gym. I was pretty certain how this would go down. Nine-year-olds playing volleyball? I was prepared to see a lot of standing around, a few disengaged coaches, and parents killing time, mindlessly scrolling through phones. 

How wrong I was. The place was electric! The kids were cheering, excited, and fully engaged—almost as much as the parents watching.

But that wasn’t the most surprising part. What really left an impression on me was how they played the game. Volleyball starts with the serve. The thing about nine-year-olds though? Most of them don’t know how to serve the ball. 

So, for this game, the gameplay was slightly altered. As the players rotated around the court, each kid had a chance to serve the ball. Most of these attempts were flubbed well shy of the net.

The kids cheered anyway, laughing along with their teammates, and encouraging them to try again next time.

At the conclusion of each turn to serve, rather than rolling the ball under the net to the other team, a coach put the ball in play, gently lobbing it over the net directly to the back-centre position of the opposing team. 

What impressed me so much was what the coaches’ involvement facilitated. On nearly every play, something truly amazing happened: the kids were able to play volleyball! When given the chance to return a carefully placed ball, that’s exactly what they did. They bumped it back over the net, sometimes over to a teammate.

The impact of the coaches on the game was impossible to ignore or overstate. Simply put, they caused the game to happen. They were the catalysts. Without them, our aspiring volleyball players would not have had the opportunity to practice and play. Their skills weren’t there yet. They needed something or someone to get the ball moving—literally.

Catalysts are powerful. In chemistry, they are substances that enable or speed up chemical reactions.

I like the imagery of that definition when I consider many different kinds of catalysts in my life. A mentor helping me through a complex problem. A coworker eager to show me the ropes. Or just like at my son’s volleyball game, a coach who knows what’s needed to move me to the next level.

The examples of catalysts from my lived experience are numerous. Some of them are small and relatively minor and others big, life-altering connections with profound impact. 

Can you think of a time when someone, or something, was the catalyst that moved you forward? I suspect most of you won’t have to think for long. 

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