A Coach Says Goobye And Offers Some Advice
A girls soccer coach reflects on the good--and the bad--of coaching
I have been coaching girls in school age soccer, basketball, or softball for over 14 years - many times, more than one sport per year. I have been blessed to have been able to work with literally hundreds of young girls during this time. I know I have learned much more from them about life than they ever learned from me about sports. I look back at it and that is probably too bad, I wish I could have taught them more.
It's time to end this fun I have enjoyed for so many years. I have some words of advice for parents - and I include myself in this. I could certainly take some of my own advice here! Please encourage your kids, and stay positive with them. Let's face it- not many of these kids will go on to play sports in high school, even fewer in college. Out of the hundreds of girls I have coached, not one is playing in the "bigs," The reason I decided to coach is the pure joy I get when I see a girl "get it" on the field - that look in her eye when she finally puts it together. When she finally feels confident enough to try something we have been working with her on at practice -whether it is using her left foot to shoot a goal during a soccer game, or trying a slap bunt from the opposite side of the batter's box. Because I know the girl who tries that during her game, feels more confident in her ability at school or just stepping out her door in the morning to catch the bus. That confidence radiates throughout her whole being, in everything she tries. That's why I coach. And I will miss that feeling!
A couple of incidents lately have me wondering what we are teaching our kids. These acts have truly changed how I coached my last remaining weeks, and I hope they change how people coach after I step aside. We need to be more positive with our kids - less critical and more complimentary of their effort. Guess what mom – no – threatening to come out on the field and smack your daughter ‘onside the head’ is not going to make her play better. In fact, I suggest, it might get her to play a little worse. The look on my player’s face when her mom verbally ‘took it to her’ at halftime will remain with me for a long time. A true sense of worthlessness came over this girl– and that is too bad because I know that was not her mom’s intent. Additionally, telling a child they ‘underachieved’ out on the field isn’t a really positive way to start a conversation with them immediately after a game.
Let’s face it, we all live vicariously through our children. We want our children to be successful in everything they do. We have to remember that youth sports is for them to have fun, understand the game, as well as to learn about competition and teamwork. It’s not about you making up for getting cut your freshman year in high school. It’s simply not about you – it’s about them. I have always said that when my girls weren’t having fun anymore in a particular sport, they could stop. I haven’t always heeded my own advice – but I am learning. I simply didn’t want to believe my daughter wasn’t having fun at softball anymore because I was having so much fun coaching. I …me … I was having fun coaching. It didn’t matter that she felt miserable playing – she’ll get over it, or learn to like it again. How wrong I was. You need to ask yourself – is my child having fun playing – or is that fun gone and you’re the only one who hasn’t realized it yet? I have coached many a girl who was there for her parent, and not for herself…including my own.
I was asked by a father recently about what good ‘camps’ or other extracurricular sports activities that he could get his daughter involved in this summer. I cited a couple of very good outlets in the area that this man could take his daughter. I also let him know there is nothing wrong with working with her right out in the old driveway. She could work on ‘her game’ and even spend some time with her father – which I am sure she would enjoy. I am sure this father did exactly that as he seemed like the type who loves spending time with his children. But how many of us are sending our kids to camps or extra training sessions when we can be spending that time with them ourselves. Teaching them the game, and showing them what is really important in life. The first time I coached soccer I had to go to the library and pick up a ‘rules of the game’ book since I had never played. Some of you who have seen me coach might think I didn’t learn much from that book and you’re probably right!
There will always be someone who will train your child all year round in any sport and tell you your child has ‘what it takes’…all the while taking your money. Some kids do have that special something it takes to excel…most just want to play a sport to be with their friends. I am always amazed when I hear what some parents say to their girls. I often wonder if they understand how damaging it is to the girl’s psyche. I would imagine those same words don’t do too much for a boys psyche either!
As we head into a summer full of sports, and beyond…please remember. Our kids learn from us…what are we teaching them about their importance?
I will miss coaching.