The Joy of Coaching
St. Thomas Aquinas stated that man’s greatest achievement is joy. I’m sure Tommy boy wasn’t talking about coaching youth soccer but the feeling that courses through my veins when I’m working with kids seems an awful lot like what was being referred to by the wise, old Dominican lad.
I consider myself very lucky in that I spent several years studying at the National Coaching Institute under fine people like Olympic Track & Field Andy Higgins. Maybe I always had it in me but while I was there I came to the full realization that working with kids is a joy in itself. Coaching is not about soccer but about the children. It is about their need for fun, their laughter, their joy in simply kicking a ball. And if I can help them through the vehicle that is soccer to grow and develop then that is a great bonus.
To coach children is, for me, a privilege and a tremendously exciting challenge.
I used to play a lot of soccer. I was kind of OK as a player. I went into coaching partly because I didn’t like the coaching that I was observing. I also felt that as a player I had something special to give the children. It took me several years to become fully aware that coaching children is not something defined by one’s ability to play the game but rather by one’s ability to enjoy children and one’s willingness to work with the kids at the level at which they can excel. This is a tough place to get to for many coaches.
I see many young coaches, who often have been decent players but can no longer play at the level that they feel their talents deserve. They want to maintain contact with the sport. They do so by ‘coaching’ children. But there is a problem. They are not ready to be coaches.
In their minds they really haven’t left the playing side of the game behind. They really want to play. So convinced are they of the great contribution that they have to make to our children’s development that they don’t even bother to educate themselves as to the meaning of coaching children. They aren’t aware of, far less understand, the basic truths that children must be engaged, they want competition, they want intensity, they want to be active and most of all they want to have fun.
Instead, these frustrated players often, having skimmed through a couple of ‘how-to’ books, talked to their peers or remembered some drills, subject our children to tedious, mind numbing, ever-lasting, boring routines and drills. If these fellows want to be real coaches to our children then they must get beyond their own fantasies and, instead, address the needs of the children. If they do so I’m sure that they will come to experience the true joy of coaching children.