The Imperfect Soccer Coach

Capturing coaches stories: Journeys through pain, euphoria, joy, gratitude, and blinding happiness

Exploring the depths of my pursuit of…meaning. Just kidding it was probably just sunny out.

Chapter 1: “Start with the Why”

How to Get “The Disheveled-but-Cool Coach” Look

I frequently walk around looking like an athletic person who has abruptly decided to take all her belongings, and flee the city on foot!

A mesh bag full of tiny soccer balls…

A heavy backpack bursting out the seams with colourful pinnies poking out…

Soccer shoes barely secured in…

Another carrier bag with my coaching clothes…

A cross body purse that is unzipped (my mom is cringing)…

And sometimes a garbage bag with clothing/equipment that very generous people donate (thank you so very much).

But it is ridiculous.

What the hallway in my home looks like when I’m preparing to take on the day! I don’t have a car to pack this all into so I will patiently wait for my personalized robot delivery service.

I usually find it a bit funny as I nudge my way through people on a Toronto streetcar after a night of coaching soccer.

If you are anywhere along my path, you will be gently caressed by my large ball bag or softly knocked in the head with my backpack as I lose my balance. People have gotten off their seats on the subway, to insist that I sit down, to which I insist that, “Honestly, no seriously, really, I insist, it’s easier if I stand with all of my stuff…but thank you!”

But sometimes I arrive at home, stare up at the one flight of stairs, and almost burst into tears because I am honestly overwhelmed by carrying too much stuff and running around all day.

Leaving work (OpenSports) to get to a training session.

When it gets dangerous.

Along with an amazing group of volunteer coaches, I run a free weekly kids soccer and life skills program at our not for profit soccer organization called Nutmeg Soccer. After realizing we are really growing in numbers a few weeks ago, I packed an extra seven tiny balls from the rep team I coach into my ball bag, and got on the busy Toronto streetcar.

Mini soccer balls FTW! This was taken when I had to hand pump 30 balls before the first practice of the SC Toronto U8 rep program. I was sweating madly and worried I wouldn’t have energy to coach!

I was caught completely off guard as I walked off and a guy called out to me from inside the streetcar and proceeded to bounce pass to me— across College Street — one soccer ball after another. I caught the balls while standing in the middle of a bike lane, felt slightly mortified but slightly entertained at my own expense, took one quick look around to make sure I wasn’t going to get hit, and walked away with my head down, cheeks burning red.

Slightly relieved and more composed, I looked over at two other pedestrians who were trying to get my attention as they gently lined up the insides of their feet to pass more of my balls to me. That’s when I noticed a massive gaping hole at the bottom of my ball bag.


Why do we buy one-way tickets to roller-coaster journeys?

And why I want to hear from you.

Photo taken from a NUTMEG Session in December, 2016

I recently had one of those moments when you meet someone and during the entire conversation you’re secretly like, “crap!! I want to quote everything that is coming out of that person’s mouth!!” and you replay what they are saying in this little storage box in your brain the whole time so that afterwards, you can hastily scribble down everything on your phone’s Notes. I digress…

This incredibly wise man’s stories rooted in his photography journey reminded me of my soccer coaching journey and the deep sense of well being and meaning that we start to feel when we realize we are doing our part, which is usually when we realize what we are best at, and do it. Within our conversation, I started talking about my first coaching experience, and it brought me right through my own journey…

We, as coaches, experience a unique journey where we need to always be “on”, while there is immense pressure from ourselves, from parents and clubs we coach for, and quite honestly, kids that are not easy to manage. I think we push through a lot of insecurity and inner anguish without expressing it to anybody. So why do we do it and what do we learn from it?

If you’re still following, hear me out.


The Coach.Connection Project

Do you coach soccer? I want to speak to you about your coaching experiences. Let’s start from the beginning and learn about your journey. I want to hear what your first experience coaching was like. I really, really do. Let’s share stories, let’s have a laugh. Let’s talk about the places that coaching has allowed us to go. Let’s talk about what made us laugh and what made us cry. Let’s talk about the people it has allowed us to meet. Let’s talk about those moments we fake it until we make it. Let’s talk about connection to the kids, knowing when a kid is special. Let’s talk about how f**king dope we sometimes feel when we coach. I want to talk about how powerful things in your life intersect through this journey. I want to talk about growing up and aging while coaching. I want to talk about when you felt pride, when you felt shame. I want to compare notes with you. I want to think about how we can re-imagine the sports system so that more kids can benefit from amazing coaches.

I started by having no idea what I was doing, and now I still probably don’t, but I have a new level of control and a wonderfully shaping experience.

Anyways…

Dropping little size 3 soccer balls all over College and Bay Street is a part of my journey, and I can laugh it off because that night, more children had soccer balls to play with.

One day, I made a makeshift ball bag with a big plastic bag, and my scarf as a handle. I’m also holding nets, a big sports duffel bag, and my purse. This plastic bag is evidently more robust than the other disaster!!!

I’m really excited to hear from you!

Cheers,

Coach Alicia ❤

Connect with me at alicia@opensports.ca

I originally wrote most of this story on behalf of OpenSports, the tech platform that connects recreational sports players to more sports in Toronto and beyond. Thank you for giving me the platform to share:)

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