Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Coaching girls sports: The easiest(?) gig on the planet

I'm nearing the end of my 11th season as a youth soccer coach. Through the years I've had the opportunity to coach all five of my kids, plus countless other Wickliffe soccer players ranging in age from 4 to 12.

One thing I've learned (as detailed here) is that the single most important item young soccer players want to know is what's for snack.

Dribbling, passing, shooting and soccer tactics are important, sure, but nothing captures their attention quite like the thought of those Mini Chips Ahoy bags and Capri Sun juice boxes just waiting on the sideline when the final whistle blows.

They also want to know what position they're going to play. And what the score is. And how much time is left. All information they could easily ascertain IF THEY WOULD JUST PAY ATTENTION FOR ONE SECOND.

Not that I get frustrated or anything. I'm perfectly fine with teaching them something and then five minutes later realizing they have no recall of what they just learned. After a decade of this, you kind of get used to it.

But that's really just with the younger ones. Once they get up to the U12 level (5th and 6th grade), it's a lot easier and a lot more fun to coach them. Especially if they're good.

I've had the great fortune of coaching some excellent soccer teams over the years. You just show up at the game, tell them who's starting at which position and who's going to sub in, and sit back and watch while the whole thing goes onto automatic pilot and they methodically destroy the other team. It's a lot of fun.

Of course, I've been on the other side of that equation a time or two, as well. That's not so fun. But you take the good with the bad, and on balance I've really enjoyed my years as a soccer coach.

My favorite thing is coaching girls. Not that I don't like coaching boys, but girls are more enjoyable for two reasons:

  1. They listen (for the most part). They're actually coachable.
  2. Contrary to stereotypes, they very much care whether they win or lose.
This second point is key. The older they get, the more vicious girls become on a soccer field.

I coached Chloe's high school girls indoor team this past winter, and they were nasty. Not in a bad way. Just in a "we're better than you and we're going to pummel you" kind of way. There were times when these normally bright and cheery girls actually frightened me.

You play a variety of roles when you coach girls, but perhaps none more important than that of team psychologist. Girls care so much, and are sometimes so fragile in the confidence department, that you have to keep their spirits up. You have to let them know it's OK to fail. You have to praise them a lot before you offer up criticism.

And I've gotten pretty good at it. Having three daughters has been excellent practice.

The other crucial role you play with girls is Official Jewelry Holder. The rules state that, for reasons of safety, players cannot wear dangly earrings, necklaces or bracelets during games. Most of the time they remember to leave these at home.

But when they don't, they take them off and I hear the familiar, "Coach Scott, can you hold this for me, please?" And of course I do, because really, what else am I going to do?

Besides taking a peek into the snack bag and maybe pulling out a sample for myself, of course. Let's make sure we have our priorities straight here.

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