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Platitudes!!! Platitudes!!! Platitudes!!!

by  Leonard Marks, MD

 Platitudes, platitudes, platitudes!!!!!!!!!! Winning is not important! What’s important is how you play the game! It’s your attitude!!! Hogwash. Winning, in today’s society is important. For some bizarre reason, consistent with my personality when I think of a platitude I have always had a mental picture of Daffy Duck (you know how he spits when he talks) flying around on a circular platter spitting platitudes on those below him, soaking them in the process. Well, brother coach, whose 9 year old gets teased for losing, I am not going to toss out placating platitudes. Winning is important!!!!!!! But what is winning?Hallelujah!!! A revelation!!! Feel the power!!!! You are the coach!! You control the team!!!! Your have the power over your team!!! You are the educator!! You are the teacher!!! You are the role model!!! You are the trendsetter!!! And you get to determine what winning is. And, finally, you get to define your own reality

Many moons ago, when deer run free and eagles fly throughout the valley, my Marysville High (a school of 850 students) team was outscored by Yuba City (a school of 2500) 3 to 2. My kids were ecstatic. They had played their hearts out and did well. The Yuba City coach was furious for two reasons: First his team only won 3 to 2 and secondly he heard the Marysville Coach telling his team that they won.
“What do you mean, you won?” he aggressively confronted me.
“Well, you outscored us but you should have won by 3 and we held you to only a one goal victory, as far we are concerned it was a victory for us, but congrats on a great contest” I replied. He went away shaking his head and my kids believed me.

The key is, my friend, as the coach you can determine what winning really is. You can create your own standards which (especially the younger) kids will believe. When we played Folsom in our second game in1991 (they beat us 7-0 in the first), our goal was not to let them score more then 2 goals a half (they were that powerful). Our kids did not consider their 3-0 victory a loss, they were pleased with their performance.

Yes, it is kind of like creating a handicap. When I coached rec., my 8 year old team lost to my clubs 9 year old team by a couple of goals, but they fought hard and knew it. They gave it there all. We held them scoreless the first half. There was minimal teasing and my kids were proud. Wow!!! What a performance.

The important things is to always encourage your team to do their personal best and never let down. If at halftime, you are being trounced by a superior team, make tactical changes and set different standards for the second game. You can create two games within the match – the first half is one game and the second half is the second game. You will learn from the first, adapt, change the rules (see my second paragraph – you can do that) to achieve positive success in the second. By doing this, you will permit your team to meet with success.

We can try to hold this incredible opponent to one goal every 10 minutes. You can inform your team that they will only play for points, not goals and you will determine how to get points (remember, with your kids you can make up your own rules). You can have one or several ways or scoring points:
The other team can only get a point if not covered defensively or you can get a point every time you cover someone defensively.

  • Two points for a steal.
  • Every time you have two passes in a row you get a point
  • You get 5 points for a give and go
  • You get a point if you communicate with your teammate
  • You can win the second game (half) and your kids will be proud. My team, my standards. If you do not believe it will work, it will not; if you believe, it will (and it has for me). Again, as a coach, I can create my team’s reality.

Of course, you have to make it fun as well, and as long as you have controlled insanity with realistic goals, the kids will love it. You might need some rare attitude adjustment with the occasional overachieving parent but I have not had many problems with the parents. Most of them will buy into what you are trying to accomplish – building success through success in which you will give your kids realistic goals with lots of praise when they achieve them.

So, my concerned coach. Be creative, get crazy, and have fun. Get your kids to go 100% all over the field and set different standards. Remember the famous words from that great movie “Galaxy Quest:” ‘NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER.” You are the coach, keep the kids psyched, keep them in the game. If you are getting drubbed, change the rules in the second half so you can “win” that half even if you are outscored. The key is to never let them quit. They will feed off your enthusiasm even under adverse conditions. Your kids not only will hold their heads up but will have pride in their performance and will handle whatever teasing comes their way. In general, I have found that if one team is really trying, even if they lose, there is respect and minimal teasing. It works, I have done it and seen it done.

Regarding changing teams: If kids are having fun, the parents will rarely ever change teams. And for those that do they are worth losing – good riddance; just feel truly sorry for their kids – they are doomed to a screwed up life. The beauty of coaching is permitting the kids to achieve success in all aspects of life. Losing is in the mind of the loser; winning in the mind of the player – the score is secondary. Go for it!!!!!!!!!!

Dr. Leonard Marks

Dr. Leonard Marks is a specialist in Pediatrics and a Fellow at the American Academy of Pediatrics - Sutter North Medical Foundation. He coached the Marysville High School Varsity Soccer team for 21 seasons and was named the Sacramento-San Joaquin Section Model Coach of the Year in 2010.