So, you’ve volunteered to coach soccer.
Your life will change. How much depends on you. It’ll force early hair loss, or high blood pressure, perhaps. Or, it will reveal character and strength you never knew existed.
Seriously, few things in this life will stir your soul like coaching your kid in soccer.
Seriously, few things in this life could scar your kids like coaching your kid in soccer.
Probably I’ve stomped my last sideline for a while. It’s not over for sure, but … I’ll call it an involuntary coaching walkabout. Well-timed, though. Grace will play 30 minutes away, Marie 45, and Elise a two-hour drive away.
I’ll roll up too many miles on my Pontiac this fall to coach anyone.
I’ve coach champs and I’ve coached against chumps who drain the love of the game out of a kid. I’m not the greatest coach who ever lived. But every man or woman who takes up the clipboard? I’d love to have 20 minutes with each and every one of them.
I’d ask a few questions.
What are you doing here?
It’s for the kids. Don’t get that crooked. No one cares if you win on Saturday mornings. Look your players in the face after practice or games. Are they enthralled – or confused?
What’s your plan?
It’s essential. Create a random, equal plan for playing time, and stick to it. An extra 15 minutes of playing time for your least-focused kid means more than a 2-1 win no one even writes down.
How will you practice?
No lectures. No lines. No laps. Every kid with a ball. Tag isn’t bad. Your job is simple: Play games that teach the kids to play and love soccer. It’s not at all easy. But it’s fun as heck.
What about gameday?
Anxious? That’s normal. Ticked that you lost again? Not cool. The kids will remember your joy when the score. They’ll never forget how you treat them when they get scored on.
What about parents?
You’re in charge of their kids; respect them and listen. You’re in charge of their kids; don’t let them push you around. Smile at the praise, forget the harsh words, and concentrate on the kids.
How will you coach your budding stars?
Some will dazzle you with signs of greatness. Do not ride their coattails. It’s your job to teach the concept of team. Every player needs every player. Show them this.
How will you coach those a step or 10 behind?
Some will baffle you with signs of indifference. Do not leave them behind. It’s your job to teach the concept of team. Every player needs every player. Show them this.
How will you foster a team?
They’ll begin to learn that the team is more than the sum of its parts. Kids will rally around a cool team name or favorite color of jersey. If you believe, they’ll believe. Want a glimpse of your character? Look at your youth soccer team. They’ll reflect it.
How will you win?
Some days, you’ll roll. You’re not Jose Mourinho. When your star forward scores three, put him on defense. Or in goal. Play a player down, quietly. Win with humility.
How will you lose?
Some days, you’ll get rolled. You’re not a clown. When your keeper gives up three, put him at defense. Or forward. Play on, and try your best. Lose with dignity.
What do you want for these kids?
Ever feel like the kids let you down after a loss? You never, ever should. They’re not there for you. You’re there for them. If you get it, you know what I mean.
Every kid who wears your jersey matters.
One kid who masters a simple soccer move on your watch counts for 37 Saturday victories.
Every kid who scores her first goal on your watch will remember your team forever.
Every kid who sits on your bench will think of something you said 10 years from now.
All of them will infiltrate your soul. Your kids, and your new kids.
See, when a kid plays for you, they’re your kid, too. Even when a girl’s mama runs into you at Target to tell you her daughter’s graduating from college, and that she never played again after you, because you were her coach.
So, you’ve volunteered to coach soccer.
Your life will change. How much depends on you.