Stage Coaching

I got into coaching for the same reason a lot of parents do; because no one else would. I like sports, grew up playing them, did multiples (soccer, baseball, basketball, football, track & field) and even competed in college. I had great coaches, and I had some who were great examples of how not to coach. Now, as I volunteer as a coach on my kid’s teams I am always looking for ways to simplify a sport’s tasks for the kids so that they understand, improve, gain confidence, and most importantly, don’t embarrass their parents when they get in the game.

I had to learn how to coach, and that’s where I harkened back to the days of old and found some incredible stuff on YouTube. Right now I’m coaching 2 sports and one of them is soccer for a boys team, ages 10-12. Some kids are taking it as an opportunity to compete and improve. Some are outside and active and that’s enough for their parents to have paid >$150 to get on a team. And some have almost no idea why they’re out there. So I’m using a lot of various tactics to keep these kids interested and wanting to play. I’m not a great soccer coach, but with a bit more lead-up time this season might be going a bit more smoothly. The league I’m coaching in does the bare minimum for their coaches. I’m not alluding to a need for any sort of payment, but any organization should make it as easy as possible for their volunteers to want to coach and do so sober.

As can happen at any level and in any sport there was a near meltdown of all fundamentals in last night’s match. Even as we walked off with a 7-0 loss, I know it could have been worse. 5 games into the season the team looked like it was their first day on the pitch together as they played way out of position, crowded the ball, stole from each other, dribbled ahead of their speed, and had some of the worst attitudes they had displayed all season. Some of the most vocal griping about their positions or their teammates came from kids who performed the worst. This is an opportunity for me as their coach to address and correct it by reminding them of all the things they’ve done wrong for the past 8 weeks. Or ask them how they would correct it and guide from there. We have 2 games and no practices remaining so I guess we’ll see…

There’s a fine line in coaching kids that must be walked – on one side is “What the kid thinks they can do” and the other side is “Where their skills fit best.” Sometimes it’s a thin line, sometimes it’s a gaping, impassable maw of genetic reality. Coaching happens where you create scenarios for the kid to bridge or narrow that gap and gain confidence. As seen above, a lot of kids, in their minds, are ready for a shoe endorsement and developmental contract with their favorite team. In actuality…

As a parent with a kid on the team I want my kid to be having fun out there, but also competing. Not just “getting a win,” but learning that Intentional Effort leads to good outcomes. I can always tell a player what they need to work on to get better, but it’s up to their parents to remind them to go work on it 5 times before the kid decides they want to. YouTube is an under-utilized coaching tool, frankly. A simple search for “Basic Soccer Dribbling Skills” will get your kid, or you, a very solid foundation of the most basic skill in soccer. So I often send out links to kids and parents for them to check out. Then when they show up on the field I can ask “What did you get from the videos I sent your parents?” and they can say “You did?” and I can say “Ah, okay, I see now. Why are you wearing sandals to soccer?”

So it all goes in phases, sometimes every time out, to see who is ready to play, and who is just killing time before dinner. There will come a time in a sport where the kids get cut or don’t play enough or it’s far more serious and has a lot more implications than where these guys are at. The best you can do as a parent is to support your kid’s efforts, encourage goal setting, and remind them that good things come to those who work. Doing 5 minutes of focused skill work every day – since most leagues limit practice to 2 sessions or 2 hours a week – will help their coach not start replies to requests for playing time with “Seriously?”

About Geoff Lott

Geoff Lott is a "thinking person's comedian" as much as a "drinking person's comedian." Born and raised near Seattle, his writing and comedy is Cloudy with a Chance of Hope. Less offensive than your average nightly news program, Geoff is opinionated with intent, and a rebel without a clause. A comedian, actor, dad, husband, co-worker, weirdo, and great friend, Geoff Lott has a sense of humor like a sommelier's sense of smell; aged well, with a hint of dark chocolate, Irish whiskey, and leather. Credits and press kit available upon request!
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