Youth Coaching Chronicles: Constant Failures
This past weekend was the first game of the spring season, and my U10 Girls Academy team was ready. There wasn’t anything that the opponents were going to throw at us that we weren’t prepared for. We had worked on getting the ball wide, connecting the dots with our passes and finishing in the lower corners of the goals. The girls were antsy to get on the pitch and go against someone other than their teammates. They were prepared…for one half of soccer.
Let me paint the picture for you. It’s overcast and around 63 degrees. The wind is blowing with gusts up to 15 mph, which makes the 63 dip into the mid 50’s at best, and we’re playing on a half-grass, half-dirt, half rock, half-sand, half-baseball field, half-dodgeball arena. The goals were designed for what seemed like a U3 team as opposed to a U10 team and the other team had three girls that looked like they drove themselves to the game. All that aside, we had a good game plan and we were ready.
The game starts off and we’re holding true to everything talked about. We quickly go up 1–0, then 2–0. They get one back, so it’s now sitting at 2–1 with about 5 minutes to go until halftime, and we put another one in. We go into the half up 3–1, and the way we played had us all proud. We start the second half and the other coach put his three U25’s into the game, and their only task was to toe the ball from whatever position they could. Crap…we didn’t plan for that. My assumption would be that the other team would attempt to play soccer instead of just trying to toe the ball in from mid-field. My assumption was wrong. They quickly score from what seemed like the parking lot. She got the ball, did a fantastic turn on my player and proceeded to toe the ball from the midfield. My keeper went to save her face, I mean the ball, and it goes in. We’re still up 3–2, but my girls were defeated after five minutes into the second half. There is no need to rehash the day, it ended 5–3 and our girls were devastated…and I was livid.
I was mad at the girls, I was mad at the other team, I was mad at the field, I was mad at the goals, but most importantly I was mad at myself. I always tell my girls I don’t care if we lose, as long as it’s to a better team. There is no excuse in losing to a team that is not as good as you are, and even worse, there is no excuse on why you give up on the game and stop playing. Which is exactly what they did, with the exception of one player who ran the entire game, and was sick two days before. Even my kid, gave up on her teammates, which she heard about all the way home.
Coaching is full of failures, and I’ve hit many in my short time doing this at a higher level, but this is the worst. I failed my kids. I failed the parents of the kids. I failed my coaching education. I failed myself. That last one hurts, because I know I’m a better coach that that. Somethings you can’t prepare for, others you can, and I didn’t prepare them for the possibility that they might get down on themselves.
I try to make practice fun and informative, they are 9 year old girls after all. I don’t like to make them run for no reason. There should always be a purpose when you have practice. The ball should be involved in some way or another, but after this weekend, I need to incorporate something deeper. They need to know how to continue on when things aren’t going their way. That’s where my failure lied from this weekend.
This goes deeper than soccer. This goes to the core of what they should expect from their life going forward. Everything will not go their way, in fact, it is safe to say that things will go the other way more often, so they need to learn how to adapt. I take my job as a coach very seriously, and my ultimate goal is to create better people who will inhabit and run this world when I’m old and reminiscing about the “good ol’ days”, I’d like for them to be able to bounce back from a set back.
It is a point of emphasis that all of my coaching has life lessons included, but this past weekend, I failed. My girls had no idea how to adapt and handle what life was throwing at them, and instead of preparing them for the worst, I prepared them for the best. The best showed up, then disappeared at the first site of adversity. Coaching is full of failures, and this past weekend, I experienced my worst.
My apologies to my girls. You deserve better, and I demand better. I will be better. On to the next match.