We are coming to the end of yet another soccer season. This is about my 14th season of coaching. I have coached the whole gambit of ages in the Barbara B. Jordan YMCA soccer program for youth 3 to 16. I started in the youngest group thinking at least I knew as much as them and slowly progressed up to older kids as my knowledge and confidence grew.
I have discovered I am a pretty competitive person. I always try to put the kids first, but I no longer can coach the youngest kids. Most of their “games” are little more than controlled chaos, and while they are still having a good time, I find it too hard to reign in my competitive spirit to enjoy it with them.
At this point my favorite ages are 7-10. They are young enough to still think they can learn something from someone else and old enough to understand and implement what you are telling them. Plus getting a new person or two is pretty much a given across the board for all the teams.
By age 11 or so most of the kids have been playing for awhile and trying to get a new kid caught up is hard unless they are athletic or a natural in soccer. My oldest son JJ was 11 when he started. My B-I-L was his first coach. Scott is a great coach and had JJ playing as well as many of his peers by the end of the season.
That was the first year for all my children and we were hooked. We had been playing baseball but soccer had several things over baseball in my opinion.
First, it is an all in all out game. If you are in the game you are moving and involved in the game not standing in the outfield waiting for a ball that may or may not come, less time to be distracted by butterflies, flowers and frogs on the field. This is a much better way of doing things for young children.
Second, all the games were on Sat not spread throughout the week like our local baseball.
Third, the games were localized to one area. All this appealed to me since my husband works a lot and I am the sole driver for the kid’s activities.
Some of my kids have delved farther into the world of soccer by playing travel and indoor. Travel is pretty much a given if you want to get better at the sport. The coaches are not volunteers but trained, the competition is much harder. All in all it is just more intense.
MC once was goalie for a travel game in which they lost by about 20 points. She was about 9. No mercy rule here. As parents we sat and watched concerned for our kids self esteem.
As the game ended I went to MC expecting to comfort her but she was all smiles. Even in defeat she had had fun. She had learned to lose with grace, a lesson many adults could use.
Indoor is altogether different again. It has few out of bounds and because of the playing surface the ball moves much faster. It really forces players to pick up the pace of the game. They come back to outdoor soccer much quicker.
I think of these things and others as this season draws to a close. The trials of difficult kids and more difficult parents drift to the back behind the excitement of; at the buzzer wins, the loses that paled in comparison to the lessons learned about soccer, and teamwork and life in general.
I am thankful for the break in my schedule but glad to know a new season waits just around the corner.