Sunday, June 19, 2011

Of course I knew what I was doing; I had a clipboard

As mentioned in several other blog posts I, along with my friend Gary, coached a boys youth soccer team for 8 years (16 seasons). Gary's son Dusty was one of our players, and we coached him from U5 up to U12. Most of the other players came and went, but we did have 2 others who played all 16 seasons on our team, and several others who played 10+ seasons.

Gary and I worked well together. He had more soccer playing experience (somewhat easy, since I had none), so he did most of the in-game instructions. I focused on formations, where each kid played and substitutions. And in later seasons I even carried around a clipboard so that it looked like I knew what I was doing.

When we first started, neither one of us knew much about coaching. However, at the U5 level, it didn't really matter much. At that level, the teams play 3 to a side with no goalies, so the strategy is simply, "Kick it that way!" As they got older, the teams added more players to a side, including goalies.

Once positions became important, we tried to give each kid a chance to play as many positions as possible. Some coaches would put their 3 best kids as forwards, their 3 weakest kids in defense, and the rest in midfield. We actually split the skill level up so that each line (forward, midfield, defense) had strong and weak kids on them. And we moved them around between the different lines because they couldn't ever get better at a position if they never got to play it.

That philosophy meant we sometimes didn't win as many games as other philosophies might have, but it was recreational soccer. We felt it was our goal (pun intended) to make them better players for when they played select soccer or even high school soccer.

We may not have done a lot right in our coaching, but every now and then you get a reminder that there were some things you did do right. Three of our former players are still playing select soccer (2 played 16 seasons for us, 1 played 10+ seasons for us), and their team finished this past season as undefeated state champions for their age group. One of the player's mom e-mailed me about the team, thanking Gary and I for our coaching style. She mentioned her son appreciates that we didn't pigeonhole him into one position.

Sometimes the littlest things we do have the biggest impact.

Epilogue: When Gary and I "retired" from coaching soccer, I took some pictures from the various years and put them here.