by: Brent Wood
In the past, the coming of fall meant that I would be coaching my middle school charges (both boys and girls) again. In the spring, I would coach in the rec leagues - usually my kids along with others who were elementary-aged. The idea was for me to teach these kids soccer. But sometimes they did more of the teaching, and I did more of the learning.
So today, I'd like to share a few things I learned as a kids' soccer coach - because they're lessons that are just as appropriate for life now as they were back then.
1. Sometimes staying warm is more important than playing. I can remember games played in miserable weather where kids would ask not to play so they could huddle under blankets. Sometimes we have to make value judgments in life, too.
2. Yelling at the ref is really not very helpful (especially in the rec leagues where the ref is 15 yrs. old and getting paid $10 a game). First of all, it doesn't really fit with the whole "fruit of the Spirit" deal. Secondly, it encourages us to blame others for our situation. Sure others can create problems for us, but we still have the power to respond appropriately.
3. Showing is better than telling. You can tell a kid what to do. Or you can show them. The latter works better. Same with life. We teach best by example.
4. No one scores on the goalie. They score on the defense. When I coach in rec league, everyone took a turn as goalie. Some kids liked it; most kids hated it. Too much pressure. They didn't want to let in a goal and have their teammates upset. But in soccer, if the defense does its job, the goalie leads a boring life. In life, we need to play as a team, too. And share in both the successes and the failures.
5. Snacks matter. Just give a kid a nice bag of cookies and he'll be over his heartbreaking loss less than three minutes after the game. So next time you feel defeated - maybe some Oreos?
6. The quality of my coaching was directly related to the level of talent on my team. That's the truth. Sometimes we get too impressed with our own abilities when it really has more to do with our opportunities. But sometimes we are also too hard on ourselves even though we are put in "can't-win" situations.
7. Kids respond better to encouragement than they do to correction. No kid messes up on purpose. Better to focus on the behavior you want than to replay the one you don't.
8. Some people are just way too intense. Honestly. It's just kids, playing games. Like organized recess. To my knowledge not one of my elementary or middle school games was ever attended by a college scout. So relax, people. And if your team is winning 20-1, it's ok to take out some of your better players. Really. Sometimes I wonder how much fun parents and coaches take out of the game.
9. Every kid needs someone to cheer for him. Kids don't really need you to tell them they're great. If they're not, they know you're lying. And if they are, they don't need to get a big head. Kids do need to know that you love them and that you are for them. No matter what.
10. Winning isn't always about the score. It's about doing your best and maximizing your potential and keeping a good attitude and playing as a team and showing good sportsmanship and improving your game and encouraging your teammates and.... You can score the most points and still be a loser.