I love soccer. I love to play it and watch it. I really wanted to share it with my kids (knowing full well that they’ll probably fall in love with a different sport. Murphy’s Law, right?)
So when my son’s team ended up without a coach last year, I gingerly stepped forward. But this new coaching role … it was hard! And I have and continue to learn a lot from these little players, both about soccer and life. Here is a glimpse at what I’ve gained:
- Don’t let one problem person distract you from seeing all the good happening around you. On each of the teams I’ve coached, there are always a couple of players who act out. My first tactic is to ignore this behavior because I don’t want to provide attention for poor behavior. The problem is when one player’s bad behavior affects another player. Then I have to step in. I can handle this a few times, but after awhile, it wears me down and makes me angry. I have to remind myself that even though one or a handful of players are being obnoxious, the others are playing hard and learning. There are coaches and parents donating their time and energy. There are positive relationships being built. There is a lot of good happening around, if you can just look past those annoyances.
- When it gets tough, just keep showing up. This one goes hand in hand with the first lesson I learned. After those hard practices that make you want to quit, just keep showing up. Just keep trying. Life’s not always pretty, but we make progress if we just keep going.
- Parenting is part of coaching, part of being a mentor. This lesson caught me more off guard than it should have. I thought I was there to facilitate the fun. Nope. I am a teacher, and it’s not limited to soccer. Life lessons that have come up include:
- Treat others with respect. (This is so multifaceted: respect adults when their talking, respect teammates when listening and practicing, have respectful physical interactions with teammates and opponents, have respectful conversations with teammates and opponents.)
- Life is not fair; play the game you’re given.
- Don’t play down (dirty); play like the kind person you want to be.
- I want our sons and daughters to see women as leaders (coaches), and that means I might have to step up and be that leader. The first team I coached was an all boys team. I really worried that they’d look at me (a mom, a female) and think “What does she know?” To my surprise, this didn’t happen. I hope it doesn’t for this generation. Then I coached a co-ed team, and I can tell you the girls were thrilled to have a female coach. I hope they continue to see this throughout their lives.
- Don’t lose sight of the goal: Fun! After those miserable practices where I’ve yelled a lot, I try to think of how I can do it differently the next time. How can I make sure it’s fun, and the team wants to keep coming back? Usually I switch something up: more time to goof around at the beginning, a different warm up drill or new skill to teach, make them the activity leaders, or change the rules for the scrimmage at the end.
My designer takeaway: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
― Theodore Roosevelt