I’ve had a lot of coaches throughout the years I’ve played soccer. Some I liked, and many who I most definitely did not like. But I can’t say that I did not learn anything from all of them. They all had their unique ways of coaching that allowed me to take away something more than just a soccer skill in the end that was more than just a soccer skill.
Going into my first time coaching two years ago, I was terrified. First off because I am not a fan of kids and I was about to have 14 of them swarming around me. But mostly because I had never run a practice on my own before, and my old club coach was going to be there evaluating me to see if I was ready to become a head coach for him at the club.
The beginning of practice was easy. I had the little eight-year old monsters dribble around a box playing red light, green light, and during every “red light” two kids would introduce themselves to the team. It was easy, the parents loved it, and most importantly it took up minutes of the hour practice. Now came the hard part, the actual coaching.
The main focus of this practice was dribbling and teaching the kids how to use the different surfaces of their feet to dribble a soccer ball, a.k.a. the kids were about to be running wild through sets of cones complaining that this is the boring part of soccer. So I set up a line of four cones, split the kids into groups, and told them we were going to be doing relay races through the cones. I told them the rules and emphasized certain point about how to properly dribble through the cones and told them that even if one of the teams won a round, another team can still get a point if they had the best dribbling. So naturally the kids got all excited about the points that wouldn’t mean anything by the time practice was over.
I blew the whistle and all hell broke loose. Balls were being kicked all over the kiddie field, the cones were now zigzagged because of kids running into them, and my mind was about to explode thanks to the limited amount of patience I was blessed with. It took every bit of me not to raise my voice and end the fun. Their young kids and they’re competing to win, so obviously they’re going to be incredibly excited about something like this.
I remembered how many of the awful coaches I had in the past would act out in times like this. The drill would stop, our entire team would get yelled at for not taking this seriously and being a waste of our coaches time, and on the end line we went to start running as a punishment. That is the type of coach I never want to be. I don’t want to suck the love and the fun out of soccer for these kids before they actually get the chance to play it when they grow up.
So I blew the whistle again, freezing the drill. There was only about 15-20 minutes left off practice, and the last 10 were going to be spent scrimmaging, so I had to think of a way to actually get them to work on soccer without being boring. I gathered the kids together and had them individually go dribble through the cones. When I first said that, I got groans from every player. Until I put a fun twist on it that while they were dribbling, the rest of the team would come up with a cheer for that person during the time they were dribbling, and the kids loved it. It gave them a chance to get to know each other better, plus what child doesn’t love yelling?
I was surprised that I made it out of the practice alive, and so was my coach. But in the end, he was very impressed with the way I handled myself. Even the parents came up to thank me and tell me how professional they thought I acted.
So obviously I got the job and ever since then, I always try to be the coach that many of my previous coaches hadn’t been. Fun.