This fall I started coaching my daughter’s U8 soccer team. No, I don’t have coaching experience. Yes, I played soccer in high school. No, I am not any good at it but I love the sport. Yes, it was actually fun to coach the girls! I made it quite clear to the league’s commissioner as well as other folks who were with him when they approached all the parents asking for a volunteer coach that I am not in the slightest bit competitive and couldn’t force that “you have to win” demand unto the girls. They said, that was in fact better since this was a recreational league. “What about the parents?” I asked. “If they have a problem, then they need to step up and volunteer as coach”, he said. Done! My experience as soccer coach would get started… woot!
Now, we will be playing the final tournament this coming weekend. It was postponed 3 weeks due to the Camp Fire in Butte County. We are not in the area but the air quality was extremely unhealthy in the Bay due to the fire and all outdoor activities were canceled, tournament included. So we are due for that but we have played, I don’t know, a bunch of games this season. We have lost ALL games. Wait… what? You read that correctly. Every game we’ve lost so far. And let me tell you that I couldn’t be any prouder of my Purple Unicorns! (yes, that is the name, the girls picked it). Why am I proud of them if they are loosing every game? Am I terrible coach? And how come the parents haven’t killed me yet?
Let’s start with: am I a terrible coach? Well, I don’t think so. I am the best coach ever? Well, I don’t think so. Another mom stepped us as my assistant coach since they recommended it was best for the team to have two coaches helping out. We practiced twice a week with the girls. We had drills, practiced passes, rules, techniques and finished every practice with a scrimmage. We tried. The girls learned something I am pretty sure. So what gives? They haven’t fully learned how to play as a team but they have significantly improved.
Now, let’s review: how come the parent’s haven’t killed me yet? Well, I am nice. Some might find my niceness annoying and that is their loss. But most people seem to appreciate my niceness. I would check on the parents too and have little chit-chat after the practices and games. They would sit on the sides while we practiced and during games. They saw the girls trying. They saw us guiding the girls. Never on a pushy way or yelling, just trying to get their attention so they could follow our directions. “I just want my daughter to have physical activity” was the majority’s goal for their little Unicorn. “This is a recreational league! They are here to have fun and I know they are having fun”, was another common response to the coach ain’t very competitive ya’ll.
But the girls are loosing every game, how come that doesn’t upset the parents? Now this one I can answer from a personal view first and as a coach next. First as a parent, I know the feeling. You would love for your child to be the next Michael Jordan, the next Pele, the next <insert here a name of a famous football player since I don’t follow or understand that sport at all>, the next Michael Phelps, the next Shannon Miller, the next Hope Solo. But not every child wants to be that next person. Some kids are not into sports or physical activities really. Our first born is very much like that. He is not competitive, he is not interested, and every time we had enrolled him in a team sport he would just be chatting with the other kids and didn’t care for the game at all. I know the feeling, and let me tell you there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that! Just like we have amazing athletes, we have amazing engineers, mathematicians, doctors and more. I think easily 7 out 11 girls in my team fall in this category. They were there to have fun while doing a physical activity so you don’t get mad over the score as long as your child is happy and having some physical activity. Second as a coach, I knew the girls were trying their best. I saw them improving. Why would I get mad if the final score wasn’t on our favor? They were happy!
Now let’s finalize with: why am I so proud of them? Well, as I just mentioned they improved SO much over the season. It kinda sounds ridiculous to some people, but I kid you not: life is oh sooooo distracting to a 7-year-old! During the first games my least interested girls would literally stood in the spot we assigned them and watch the game from inside the field… yup, just see someone coming towards you with the ball and let the person pass right by you. And the amount of pressure we put on kids isn’t always fair because if they did something great but especially if they did something bad, they would right away look out for their parent. It was like a big-oops, don’t be mad at me-look. But as they started getting more comfortable with kicking the ball, trying to get it back, defend, they started to be active during the game. That’s a BIG WIN right there!
And continuing with the distracting stuff, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is distracting when you are 7. They would get distracted talking to each other: “you’re on my side“, “go back to your side“, “my shirt looks funny“, “I’m going to a birthday party after the game”, “oh my, look at that bird“, and endless bunch of little conversations they would have. The other coach and I would be calling their names, but no response. They were in the middle of an important conversation, pointing at the flying birds, and it had to take place in the middle of the game. As the season unfolded, the distracting conversations kept happening but not nearly as often as the beginning. That’s another BIG WIN right there!
And with time and practice, their games improved. The first half of the season, the goal difference was on the quite huge side… 11-0, 7-0, 9-0 and pretty much around there. But the second half of the season was WAY better! Sure we didn’t win a game but the goal difference was significantly better: 3-2 and 2-1 were pretty much the scores for the second half. I call that a ridiculously huge improvement ya’ll!!!!! The girls were not afraid of attacking, defending, and started passing the ball to each other more accurately and often. There was a lot less bunching and they dominated most of the games during the second half of the season.That’s a really BIG WIN right there too!
Now this is a recreational league so the referees are high school kids who weren’t always making the right calls. It would be easy to say that a different ref would have meant a win for us but I really can’t guarantee you that one. They are also learning and trying to make a few bucks for Christmas presents or whatever it is they had in mind. I totally support that and didn’t really confronted them when I disagreed on a call. I mean they were confused at times and I’m not just that kind of person despite the one loud parent in our team tried to force me into doing it. Sorry dude, ain’t gonna happen! Also, I am not really looking for someone to blame but there was a very pushy parent who kept distracting his daughter. I know he meant well trying to get her to save the game but it ended up being the case every time that my Unicorn was trying to understand what he was yelling and ended up getting much more distracted that a ball would pass right by her into the net. Again, I am not trying to blame or talk shmack about this parent, but I do bring it up to you because sometimes we don’t see the whole picture. His intentions were good but it was just not helping his daughter to focus on the game despite him yelling that precise word “focus”. Sometimes we hurt someone more when we are tying to help… I just bring this up to remind us all to try our best to keep an eye on the big picture to make sure that the piece of the puzzle we are trying to add truly makes sense.
So, overall, I think I did great! I know I can do better but I don’t know that I want to do it again. It sure is nice and cute when they are all 7-years-old but not sure I would want to do it as they get older because I know the parent’s expectations can be much higher and I just don’t want that pressure. What I do encourage any parent to do is to be active in your child’s life. Be there, help, volunteer. I might take it a bit too far but I will share with you later about my new volunteering activity: scouting. But back to the soccer coach experience, I am so glad I gave it a try! As a thank you to the girls for their hard work this season I made them unicorn ornaments. You can visit this post cuz ya know I can be a DIY-mom here and there. It was a great experience and I am so glad I gave it a try. The note I received from the parents says it all; my goal is to help them be a better person and if their soccer game can improve, sure why not?!
Mama Bear Kim