If you’ve read my bio on WNST you’ll see that I coach youth soccer in the Dundalk area and have done so since 1999. I’ve seen many things over the years from Great parents and players to parents and players who just don’t get it. About 2 years into my coaching journey I decided if I’m going to really be credible with what I’m doing in the coaching arena I need to get some type of professional training. Since that time I’ve obtained 2 levels of coaching certification and some additional coursework through the NSCAA. As of now I hold a USSF E and D license and a State Diploma through the NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association of America based in Kansas). But those courses only helped me to train the players I coach in the techniques and tactics needed to develop as a player the other building blocks to helping make our young athletes be the best they can be come from somewhere else.
Since I have coached female athletes exclusively for the past few years there are certainly things that the female athlete encounters vs. the male athlete. That said the majority of what we really coach are the things that go into our athletes that they will carry for life. Yes winning somehow fits into that equation but it’s the other characteristics that we want our athletes to in body like: scholastic achievement, balancing the demands of the student athlete, commitment to team, charity, teamwork and really finding a passion in what you do.
This fall I coached for the North point Village Recreation Council which I’ve been doing for about a year now. We are a small recreation council in the South East Area of Baltimore County. The team I coach is n Under 14 Girls team. Basically to the novice if the player is not 14 but August 1, 2007 they would be eligible to play on this team age wise. This is the first time we’ve had an all girls team for the outdoor season and our goal was to have two teams one at the u-12 level and one at the u-14 level. Well wouldn’t you know we didn’t have enough to form two teams and we had to take all the players and play them up in age so they all had to play u-14 this year. Needless to say there is in some cases a significant difference between 14 year olds and some 10 and 11 year olds. So much so I had to ask two players to find another team just for safety purposes. Now I do have two 11 year olds who are small in stature but big in heart and they learned one of those lessons from above which is perseverance. Week after week these two players had to battle amongst the trees in our league. In the long run they’ll be better off having to face this adversity. Needless to say nothing has come easy this year even our one win was a back and forth contest in which once again we had to overcome adversity. In that game we won 5-3 but for the first three goals we scored the other team came back and equalized. At this point in the season we had lost 7 in a row so it would have been easy to fold up shop but the girls stuck together and argue ably my top two players were missing on this day. One was missing for academic reason and one was away on holiday, again perseverance. I try to relate what happens on the field to what can happen off down the road in that thing called life. Teaching our young team that they indeed are sowing the seeds is not an easy sell to a group this age. Week after week though our scores did not have us on the plus side but the girl continued to show up for practice and work hard. Last night we played in our season ending tournament. The team that we played had handled us twice in the regular season 8-0 and 4-1 respectively. Tonight prior to the game it was like a celebration was taking place my team was pumped up and ready to play. We all participated in the hair spray ritual, face paint, etc. Fitting it was Halloween which made things easier to find and in PIN no less. Both my assistant coach and I gladly participated because we have a spirit in this team and one I didn’t see in its full presentation until last night. The game itself was good soccer. We have had trouble this year creating scoring chances against the better teams and this trend continued. The match was 1-0 at half time and we were very much in the game. We continued to fight and we played some awesome defense last night. I looked at one of my defenders prior to the game and I didn’t have to say a word we spoke without speaking. She knew this was an important game and believe me she played the game of the year for her. I was proud because when you and an athlete can communicate like that it means they “get it”. It shows she has matured enough to know the importance of an event. This particular player will play high school soccer next year. If she plays everyday like she did last night she’ll make the varsity team. After the game I told her as much. If she can channel the effort from last night and make it a routine she’ll go far on the field and in life.
Charity: Our team this year raised over $300 for a program called Kicks Against Breast Cancer. My parents and players all purchased pins at $5 each with the proceeds going to fight breast cancer. During one practice I took eight of my players and had them stand up. I then said one of this group of eight will be diagnosed with this disease. Silence…for the first time for some of these young ladies they had been confronted with the reality of breast cancer statistics. The point was driven home. Last night we also wore pink leg bands to show our awareness and commitment to fight this disease.
Student Athlete: All of my players are in the 6-8th grade. Middle School (insert our favorite word for middle schooler here_____________)! Parents you are no doubt laughing now. Anyway about two games into the season I get the e-mail a coach doesn’t want to get. This player was having trouble in a subject and her parents decided she needed to focus on school. As a parent I understand this and support it 100%. As a coach you now have to find a way to minimize the impact on your team and turn it around so it’s a lesson to all. So every week for the rest of the year we had the school work speech. I think it makes a strong point when a player no longer is around for good because they now have to devote that extra time to school and have to forgo the privilege of playing soccer.
Passion for what you do: It was on display last night in spades. This group was so fired up I thought I had 18 new players besides me. This year we’ve had some tough times some times of in fighting but last night it was a total team effort and commitment to try and win the game. Afterwards, the coach from the other team was even compelled to speak to my team about how far they had come this year. It means one thing coming from me but another when the opposition takes the time to do that. I think it means a lot. I thank Coach Scott, from Back River, for doing that last night. It was a classy move.
Our season was certainly one to remember. We have sown a lot of seeds this season now we just have to have the courage to continue the journey. Like life it’s a journey not a destination.