Youth Coaching Chronicles: Rolling with the Punches
Boys will be boys. That’s what I was told as one of them was on the ground kicking at a ball that keeper had in her possession. That was not a typo. My U10 girls team was scheduled to play a boys team. Scheduled to play a boys team. Someone actually put this on a competitive schedule. Granted, it was in house, and it provided a unique experience for my girls, but I had to remove my keeper from the game due to being kicked in the head twice and in the chest once from this single play. I don’t mess with concussions.
So let’s start with the beginning. We’re there, we’re ready to start warming up, and I’m told that we are scheduled to play a boys team. My immediate response was “no”. I’m not going to put my girls against a boys team, we will just go practice on another field. However, my director of coaching told me to just let them play, we’re good enough that we could beat them. Then I started thinking about how awesome it would be for the girls if they could hang with a boys team, something that everyone thinks is impossible. Even at 9 years old.
So we explain the situation to the parents, and then I get the girls together for a little pep talk. I mentioned Billie Jean King and her match against Bobby Riggs. I explained that this is a unique opportunity to go out there and prove the world wrong. That girls are just as good as the boys and we had a chance to leave the field with bragging rights. They were pumped.
The game started and it was obvious that my girls had no fear in them. They were winning tackles, pushing the boys around with their shoulders…and the occasional retaliatory shove. We were connecting our passes, playing into space, making great runs toward the goal, hitting crosses. We were all over them.
With about 10 minutes to go in the first half, we take a shot that the keeper saves but we knock in the rebound. We are up 1–0 on a boys team, and my girls are playing like a miniature version of the USWNT. They’re absolutely out playing the boys. We finished the first half with more possession and composure. As a former boy, I get it. You never want to lose to girls, regardless of age, so I understand why they were frustrated. We were the better team.
The second half starts, and it’s more of the same. We’re playing well and we’re peppering the keeper. Shot after shot, save after save. He played well. Then we get sucked too far into their goal, and they hit us on a counter attack. Boom. 1–1, just like that. My girls looked shell shocked and confused. Then the play on my keeper happened. She fell on it, with both hands, and the boys came in to kick the ball. She had clear possession, and then lost it when the boy kicked it. Ok, not a huge deal, just a missed call. She then pounces on it again with both hands and one of the boys falls down. He is then kicking at the ball and proceeds to kick her in the head twice and in the chest once. The ball rolls out of her hands as she’s clutching her head and he kicks it out. Goal kick. Goal Kick?!? Just a Goal Kick?!? How was it not a foul?!? I take her out of the game immediately. Two minutes later she’s leaving to go get tested for a concussion. I’m getting furious just thinking of it, so we will move on.
The game ends the way it should have, with a 1–1 draw. That was the best possible scenario for the boys and girls. The boys left with some pride and the girls left with some confidence. We rolled with the punches and ended up having a great experience and morale booster heading into the last part of the season.
For those of you wondering, my keeper is fine. She was at practice last night and only suffered a bruise. She’s a trooper and fearless. She’s stronger than most boys I know.