To Coach Or Not To Coach

Coaching youth soccer is one of those interesting contradictions. You can go back and forth so many times in a week. One second you absolutely love it because the kids are so great and then you are so crazed because the kids just won’t listen to what you have to say.
It can be such an incredible experience to be a coach though, especially when you watch the kids as they grow up and you see them start to “get it.” The maturation from playing as 6 year olds all the way up to almost teenagers. You watch that thought process as they start to grasp the offside trap. There are adults that can’t grasp the offside trap, so when you see the kids get it, it’s quite an accomplishment.
It’s funny though, sometimes I sit back and I think about all the years I’ve put into the game. All those fall days after work that I travelled over to the practice field with that bag of balls and the cleats to give the best instruction that I could to hopefully help them progress as best as they could. The missing NFL games on Sundays to help give them the best instructions I could while being there for them so they could have fun on the soccer field.
I always had the support of the parents. They were always there to be supportive of the kids and make the best experience for the kids as they could. Whenever I had a problem they would be right there in my corner to back me up and let me discipline as a coach. You hear the horror stories that sometimes the parents could be all over the place and treat their kids badly. But I never experienced that. They just wanted their kids to have fun.
Amazingly the problem ended up being the people who ran the thing. You know, cause someone always had a problem with something that you did. If you try to protect your kids when they are the goalkeeper, someone has a problem that you make a stink about it. If a kid breaks a finger, a hand or a face, the head of the league isn’t going to dip into their pocket to pay for the co-pay at the ER or the doctor and specialist visits. They aren’t going to pay for the sick days and the gas fill ups and all that.
But I know, the kids are supposed to be prepared for the level of goalkeeper, sure I get that. However, there also needs to be someone to look out for the kids, because well they are just kids after all. Kids are going to do kid things and they are going to swing wildly and miss the ball, they’ll chase a ball and step down on fingers they will kick out and they’ll get frustrated that they can’t score a goal and act out. That’s what we need the referee for. If the referee isn’t there to protect the child in the goal, then my job as a coach is to protect that goalie. In fact my job is to protect all those kids, even to protect them from themself. If someone is acting wildly, they need to come off the field and shake it off, just shake it off.
If we are going to make excuses that the referees have limited training because it is a volunteer organization and people don’t have the time to train then we need to use the people who do have training. We should not put people who don’t have referee training in the position to fail. That’s asking for trouble and that’s poor leadership. It’s an immense responsibility to be a referee and not only do you have to know the rules but at this age you are tasked with the job of taking care of children’s safety. You look for dangerous play and you look to make sure that you keep the pace of the game going but do so in a controlled manner. A pre-teen game is not the place to start for an inexperienced referee, it’s better to start them either as a linesman or at a young kids’ game.
All this seems to be so elementary and that’s what can be so frustrating about the leadership of leagues. Why is it so difficult to understand that coaches want what is best for their kids? How is it hard to understand that coaches also wear many different hats? Leaders of leagues may not see that coaches can also be parents, referees, goal assemblers, field coordinators and leaders in safety just to name a few. Coaches are huge volunteers. To assume that just because you are a coach means that you don’t know what a volunteer is, is a huge slap in the face especially when you’ve done that job and many other jobs for the league for over five years. It’s unfortunate that volunteerism gets called into question when a coach looks out for kids but sometimes it feels like sometimes people have to find something to question. We’re not all perfect but coaches do what they can to make the experience as perfect as they can for the kids.

Refs, Complaining and What It’s All About

It’s a few days after the National Championship game of college basketball and the story of the contest was what was said afterward by the losing coach and possibly the missed calls by the refs.  Whatever happened from the time the ball was tipped off and the whistle was blown to start the game until the buzzer sounded to end the game seems to have been condensed into a post game press conference and some referee complaints.

Don’t get me wrong, and trust me, I’ve got some things to say here, but I always think there’s more to a game than one thing.  While I do believe that Kentucky did get screwed at times in their game against Wisconsin, they also did it to themselves and you have to battle back against adversity.  In the heat of the moment, you have to take a step back and push back the emotion and look at it from a different perspective.  The perspective is that there is always going to be adversity, whether you are battling the other team, battling yourself or seeming to battle the refs, there’s going to be a battle in every game.  The coach has to step up and take the players to the side during a timeout and say “Hey, we’ve got to keep our heads, play our game and trust in ourselves.  Keep it together.”  You can’t always play the “us against them” card, sometimes you have to realize you have to pick your guys up and hold the team together as a coach.  Looking at the Kentucky game, they couldn’t score baskets when they needed it, they got frustrated because of a call that was missed and the coach didn’t keep that youthful mentality in check.  These are things have to be looked at.

When it comes to the National Championship game, honestly, I can’t stand Duke, so yes I wanted Wisconsin to win.  Did I watch it?  No.  The reason I didn’t watch it is I had a feeling Duke would win.  Just a feeling.  It’s one of those things.  I know they play in the same league as Virginia Tech who I like and there are Hokie fans who are saying how great it is that an ACC team won the National Championship, but not me.  I can’t understand that.  As a Tech fan, if Tech doesn’t win, I don’t care if it’s an ACC team or an SEC team, I want my team to win.  Why should it be the ACC?  To show that it’s a good conference?  What is this nonsense about conference.  This crap started in college football too.  It’s getting really old.  I’ve had enough.

As a coach or a fan you have to accept that refs are going to miss a call or two.  In fact they are probably going to blow a call or two.  There’s this whole thing that can be played back in your head, if you take a certain point where you think about a call that “might” have been missed, what do you think would have happened?  Would it seriously have changed the outcome?  We will never know.  There’s a reason.  The reason is that things happen and the best teams can roll with the punches and accept whatever happens and make the outcome for themselves.  I’m not saying the best team always wins, just the team that’s better on that day in that game.  This is how sports works.  This is how it has always worked.  Everyone now is pushing for replays and challenges and “getting the call” right.  Unfortunately the more we throw all these things into sports the more we slow down the game and take away momentum and turn the games into boring replay fests.  Are we going to get to the point that we challenge every call?  Who determines what play is challenge-able?  When you think about it, weren’t you happy playing the game in your backyard with your friends?  Did you really have to argue about the calls?

You know, Bo Ryan complained about all the calls that Duke got and how that made all the difference for them.  I saw a stat somewhere that I haven’t verified which stated that Duke had more fouls called for them than Wisconsin in the second half.  Again as a coach you have to break yourself away from the emotion as tough as it is and learn from it, make the best of it and be the leader of your team.  To be completely fair, it’s easy to sit here and second guess but I haven’t been coaching my whole life.  I would think if you’ve been coaching your whole life you would understand you have to accept defeat not necessarily embrace it.

I don’t know, maybe it’s not as simple as these questions.  Maybe there’s more to it than that.  As fans we’re kind of spoiled because we’re not on the front lines and we’re not dealing with the press.  But sometimes I ask myself, “what if the Hokey Pokey is what it’s all about?”