Dear Grace’s new coach,
Hello. Receipt of this letter means you’ve made the intelligent choice of drafting Grace to play on your 7-8 soccer team this season. Congratulations.
And warning. I’m watching you.
No, I’m not that parent. I’m your friend. Potentially. I also have some nightmare elements to me, admittedly.
Grace has had the benefit of a top-notch, incredible soccer experience her entire young career. Yes, all three years of it. She learned technical skills and tactical knowledge and, more important, was allowed to flourish and develop her own sense of the game and all its nuances.
Her coach treated her very special and at the same time the same way as everyone else on her team.
He was me. And he was awesome not because of the trophies won or any dominance enjoyed, but because he made sure that he always answered that question in every practice and game and interaction he had as her coach:
What’s best for the kids?
He never lost sight of why he was on the sideline. For the kids. It’s never, EVER the other way around.
Grace is incredibly coachable. She’ll play goalkeeper, defense, offense, anywhere you need. She’ll encourage her teammates.
She’ll stick up for them, and she’ll stick up for you.
She might turn cartwheels in practice and goof around with her mates, but when the uniform is on and the ball drops, you’ll see that look in her eye. Good things usually follow.
She knows the game. Try and make the team sprint before they warm up or dribble around cones or stand in line or listen to you lecture or lose your temper, and see what happens.
You’ll lose her, and you’ll lose the others. They’ll compare you to me and consider you inferior.
Wow, that sounds snobby. But she’s holding you to a high standard, too. They all are.
Maybe it is snobby. Maybe you wonder now if you shouldn’t have drafted her.
But she knows better. No, we didn’t win every game. She’s scored many hat tricks, but has also endured a season without a single goal. She learned from both, about the value of scoring, and what you can do when the scoring doesn’t happen – like defense, supporting her teammates, and working hard.
I’m completely receptive to any invitation to become your assistant coach. Not to take over, but to contribute. It’s your team. I’d be there to help.
I highly suggest you extend that offer. The other kids you’re likely to draft, if you’ve paid attention, have also come from my camp. They’re the ones you might have seen last year dribbling around your players.
The girl who always seems to be in the right place on defense, or the boy who passes as well as his big brother. They’re good because they’re creative and confident because of the environment they’re coming from.
Your players are capable of that, too.
You’ll notice that, like Grace, some of these players have ponytails. Don’t be afraid.
In some archaic dialects, a ponytail means “belongs on defense or on the bench while the boys do the real work.” But then Susan B. Anthony and Mia Hamm came along, and that translation got lost in history, but not completely, unfortunately.
It’s still alive and well in some places, such as Afghanistan and parts of Cabarrus County.
Don’t be fooled into hiding the ponytails on defense or your bench. Watch your most aggressive boy try and take the ball from a ponytail, and you’ll understand. Let them show you what they’re capable of.
I’m holding you to a high standard, Mr. New Coach. Not to treat my daughter like a princess, although she is royalty. I’m holding you to a standard to teach and develop her like all the kids on your roster deserve.
Ponytail or no.
The association will let me coach only one team this season, so you’ll have your chance to coach her, too. And many others I consider my kids. It’s a great opportunity for you. Yes, they’re on your roster, but the kids who play for me will always be my kids. Just ask them.
You’ll love Grace on your team, though. She’ll make your life easier in many ways.
So long as you remember this, above all else – you are here for her and her teammates; they’re not here for you.
Keep that straight, and we’ll get along just fine.
Get confused, and it could be a long one. For all of us.