So I coached Sam's soccer team this fall. I'd like to say my reason for doing so was altruistic; that I wanted to teach the kids the proper way to play the game, develop their skills, and let them have some fun. Or even that I wanted to spend more quality time with my son. And while those factors certainly did play a huge part of my decision to coach, the tipping point for me was the fact that if I coached the league would refund Sam's registration fee. The way the season unfolded was karma’s means of punishing my somewhat impure motives.
To be sure all of the kids on the team were great. They were well mannered, polite, even funny at times. The biggest issue with them was that they were, well, well mannered and polite on the field. To be fair most of the games we played were pretty close. Most of the games we played were within a goal or 2. And the kids did show improvement throughout the season--a number of them started using the inside of their feet to kick instead of their toes (though the kid I worked with the most on that didn't), they started to pass in the latter part of the season, and I even got them to start trapping the ball with their chests.
The one thing I couldn't get across to them was the need to be aggressive on the field at all times. A good number of the goals we gave up were simply because my players didn't think to challenge an opponent when they had the chance. I did a drill with them that basically pitted them one on one against each other in an effort to get them to be more aggressive. They loved the drill and they got to be very good at it. Even my least aggressive players were fully engaged in the drill. But those efforts never quite translated to game time.
The other aspect that drove me batty was focus. There was one player with consistent issues with focus, but at times during the season lapses in focus cost us dearly. A couple times the kids playing goalie let in goals because they forgot they could use their hands even after a reminder. Sam let in goal because he was daydreaming rather than watching the game--indeed I'm not sure he was even aware that the ball was in the net until I said something to him. And then there was "Steve" [name changed].
Steve is a good kid--very polite and nice. His parents are both very nice and polite. Steve though was THAT kid. Steve simply had the attention span of a gnat. During one practice we did a simulated kickball game in which I would roll the ball to the batter who would kick the ball to teammate in the field and then run the bases until the teammate got the ball back to me. Pretty much just a game of kickball sans the outs. Before we started I even asked the kids if they played kickball before and only 1 (not Steve) said she hadn't. Steve was the fourth batter for his team-- he had a chance to watch the others play and get an idea of what was going on. For reasons I don't know when it was Steve's turn to run the bases he kept running to me trying to take the ball. And he kept doing it--after the first time I explained to him what he was supposed to be doing, he again ran to me to try and take the ball. And again after the second, and after the third, and so on. And sadly this type of thing carried into the field, where several times Steve would do the exact opposite of what we had been doing all season and what he had been taught. The truly sad part is that when Steve was paying attention he actually did some brilliant things. And he was by far my best goalie. But in the field I had no idea what Steve was going to do from one play to the next and neither did he.
Needless to say the season didn't go as well as I had hoped at least from a wins and losses perspective. We only won once. This isn’t to say the kids didn’t progress. As alluded to above for the most part their skills did improve throughout the fall. But the wins didn't come. We only got blown out in one game, and I'm still mad because I think the other team ran up the score on us and were poor sports about it, and the kids were close to winning a couple others. But alas the lack of aggressiveness and waning attention spans usually caught-up with us--though in a number of games we dominated the second half, we just couldn't score.
Perhaps, if there is an issue here it's mine. I tried not to project too much onto 6 year-olds but its hard not to have expectations especially when they practiced so well. But again they were 6--not 16--and maybe I was expecting too much. I had visions of how the game should be played and taught to that expectation. Maybe it was my vision that was at fault.
Memorial Day thoughts….
6 months ago