Other side of the pitch

posted in: In the Mayhem | 0

When you coach youth sports you meet amazing families and some shall we say, who let their colors show. After playing the sport and logging a few year of coaching you learn to see the big picture to youth sports such as what matters at each age and what level you are playing at. I’m often asked questions about coach and if I could tell one thing to sports parents it’s this: See the forest through the trees.

First of all, if you have to tell me “I’m not that overbearing crazy parent” I hate to break it to you, but you are. Don’t try to tell the coach you played in the 80s so you know how it is. Again, being the barer of bad news, in the 80’s any girl willing to run and wear a sports bra made the team. Women’s sports and the game of soccer have evolved in the past 30 years. But please, do tell me your thoughts.

Over the years I have had the pleasure of coaching the most emotionally stable age group ever, girls ages 11-14. 15 players on a team, 65 personalities. I like to call it emotional roulette. Some motivated by critical comments where others would crumble at the slightest hint of criticism. Some simply needing to be told, job well done. Each team I coach was so very different from the last. One year I coached a team that’s wasn’t close to a top level team in the soccer word, but they worked hard and had fun. They were from blue collar families and they played like it, pure reckless abandon. We had so much fun. The next year I had a team of nerds with a mostly white collar lifestyle. They were beyond analytic and I am convinced that if I gave them a text book and said their would be a test, they would have won a few more games. No actual practice with a ball necessary. A group eager to please and make sure every one was having a good time. They challenged me as a coach and I enjoyed trying to figure them out. As a parent, take note of the team and player dynamics. They matter in girls sports. Those dynamics change the way we coach.

Some parents wonder why their supper star suddenly can’t do anything right. With kids growing and learning, they are all due for an awkward and frustrating season around age 12.  It’s a little thing we call puberty.  No one is coordinated during puberty. Dribbling a ball while your feet and legs grow at an unnatural rate is not easy. To the parent who is wondering why sally suddenly can’t hit the broad side of the barn, she grew 6 inches in 3 months, let it go. She’ll get her groove back.

Too many parents don’t understand why their kid doesn’t throw a ball or kick a ball with 100% accuracy 100% of the time. Well first, that’s impossible and two, they are learning. Kinda like how your kid didn’t learn algebra in one math class. It took a few years to really sink in. Mistakes are part of life, but more importantly it’s how you respond to that. As a coach who has logged way to many hours at try outs, we expect them to make mistakes; we just want to see how they react to them. Did they hang their head or chase after the ball? I can teach the skill but I can’t teach the heart.

Stop stressing about divisions and standings so much. If the goal is college ball, I have a secret to tell you so listen in. If you want a spot on a college team its yours for the taking. Hundreds of spots go unclaimed every year in women’s athletics. I know girls who stopped playing for a good 2 years and got a spot on a college team. IT’S NOT THAT HARD, SO CHILL. I promise your child will figure it out and play at the college level if he or she wants to. Just see the forest through the trees on this one. Trust me, it will all work out. Your standings at age 13 will matter never. Most kids under age 10 have no clue the score during a game. Even when they are getting killed, they are happy to play.

The most dreaded  beloved time for a coach are try outs. Try outs bring out the best in every one. Parent’s don’t freak out their kids and coaches maintain status-quo stress free social lives during those weeks. (Laura, I’m sorry for the one time when your husband and I had to call each other 50 times on your weekend anniversary trip. It wasn’t our fault I swear!!) I once counted the number of phone calls made in 72 hrs following try outs. Well, I stopped at 144 so I don’t know the grand total….. but you get the point. If you get a phone call about a spot on the team don’t think about it and call them back 4 hours later. Take it or leave it then and there. That coach has other people to call and if you don’t want the spot some one else does. You are not God’s gift the sport and you are replaceable. A note to parents; please, please let your child take this call. They need to hear the offer to be on the team just as much as the coach needs to hear the reaction of the excited kid. Those are some of the greatest moments when I get to call a player and make an offer for a spot on the team. This is a perk of the job so don’t take it from us.

If you want to try out some where else, tell your coach. We won’t take it personal just let us know so we can be prepared to fill your spot if we need to. Again, not God’s gift the sport. not telling us is kinda like a break up over a text.  It’s a life skill your little slugger needs any ways. They will one day need to turn in a notice at work and should know how to do so.

Don’t try and tell us lies or stories either. We have heard them all and know what your are really saying. I’m sure “some parents on the sideline” were saying that. But go a head, tell me what you think hear.

A funny fact about kids, they think they have opinions, but they are really just yours. Your child inadvertently tells us everything you say about the team and our coaching. It’s really quite comical some times. But go on with your dog and pony show.

Finally, trust your kid’s coach. They more than likely played the sport for years and have been coaching for many more. They know the trends of each age group and how divisions and teams shake out at each level and age. If your coach is working in the here and now and getting a result, cool, but you may want to look through a few trees while you’re in the winners circle. I see a lot of teams win in the early years and crumble at u-15 and u-16 because they lack a solid foundation but by golly they won state at age 12. That’s what counts right??

I once had a player juggling a club team and middle school team one season. She aggravated a muscle (maybe her legs were tired??) in a club game so I told her to take the week off (this is where I see a forest) and Dad didn’t see why she should couldn’t play in a middle school game later that week. She ended up hurting herself more and missing more games. Glad my input matters never.

Despite the crazy ones, Some parents are fantastic and we as coaches love them. They feed us between/during tournament games, supply a cold beverage of all kinds when needed and let their kid be a kid. They don’t talk shop with us and are just content with their kid doing what they love and learning to be a good person along the way. These ones see the forest and remind us why we coach.

A group of us coaches were once sent and e-mail by one of these parents (we don’t get these often, so if you like a coach let them know) thanking us for what we had done not for her daughter’s soccer career, but her character. You see she fought to make varsity as a freshman and worked her way to some playing time. She soon found herself taking the last penalty kick in a rivalry tie breaker, she hit the crossbar and it went wide. But when the ball didn’t bounce her way she didn’t melt down or have a fit. She was composed and full of class. That was what her mom was proud of in that moment. That her daughter knew how to work hard for something she wanted and when the wind didn’t blow her way, she held her head high. That parent sees the forest.

So chill out about the kids and the sports and the winning and take in the bigger picture.You will miss this when it’s gone so enjoy it.

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