Coaching children is, for me, an extremely serious business. I look upon it as a privilege to work with children and as such I always try to accord them the utmost respect. Not that I go about with a glum, morose expression on the old countenance.
No, on the contrary I like to think that I am for much the most part a very jolly, funny coach. Mind you, to liberally paraphrase good old Abe Lincoln, ‘… you can get most of the kids laughing most of the time but you can’t get all of the kids laughing all of the time…”.
I’m well organized; I have, I feel, a very solid coaching philosophy; I am well versed from a technical, theory and game-knowledge point of view. But, I also know that children need engagement, enthusiasm and humour from their coaches.
Over the last few months I’ve been working with two and three year olds in a ‘Soccer for Toddlers Program’. It’s great fun. They’re lovely and by turns happy, crying, outgoing, clinging to mummy, energetic, tired, excited and on and on.
I like to think that I’m very good with them. Often I’ll get down to their level. They are so small that that basically means getting down on all fours. “So, how are all my beautiful babies today? Are we going to have a grand old time kicking the ball and scoring goals and playing ‘What Time is it Mr. Wolf?’?”
Well that’s all very well and nice’n’cute but recently one of these three year old toddlers didn’t take kindly to being referred to as a baby. So much so that he approached my son, James, who was helping me on that occasion. James is 21 years of age, 6’-3” and about to graduate from university with an Honours degree in philosophy.
The three year old looked up at James, the whole length of him, and boldly informed James that, “We’re not babies you know.”
James drawing on his wisdom and wit accrued from years of studying Sartre, Kierkegaard and Camus responded most seriously, “Well, that’s just as well ‘cause babies aren’t allowed to play soccer.”
At which point the youngster turned and marched away, chest puffed out having established his seniority.
Of course, I smiled when I overheard this brief, humorous exchange. But, more than that the image that immediately was conjured in my mind was that of lots of wee babies sitting on the sidelines, nappies and all, crying their eyes out because they weren’t allowed to play soccer.
What a great laugh it is to work with children… but serious!