It was always a dream of mine to coach my children and teach them about the game that I love, soccer. I grew up playing soccer, refereeing soccer and achieving quite a bit by the age of 20. When I was in high school, I used to make a few extra bucks by coaching “Tiny Tots”; this was a soccer program a few days a week teach 3-5 year old little ones how to play and I loved every second of it. When Brenn was too young to play, I coached our neighbor’s under 6 team named the Soccermonsters. Again, I loved being able to share my passion with these tiny sponges and see them improve and have so much fun.
I was able to coach Brenn’s first 2 teams when we lived in VA and I didn’t realize the specific challenges that we face when coaching our own children. There are two kinds of coaches, those that play their kid no matter what and they can do no wrong, or more like me when you know that they can do better and expect more from them. It is a fine line to walk when coaching your kid and trying to be fair to everyone. I had a few rules when I was coaching, no using your hands unless you’re the goalie or throwing the ball in, when the coach blows the whistle you are to stop the ball and stand with one foot on the ball and most importantly have fun. After getting out of the military, I started a new job that I was traveling a lot and I wasn’t able to coach him. That is when I remembered why I did whatever I could to make sure that if I’m not coaching, that the coach has the same values that I have.
He was assigned to a coach that was a professional soccer player from Cameroon and he had a lot of knowledge on the game. I believe that he would be a great travel-team or high school level coach, but 5/6 years old kids, not so much. There were a lot of things that I would have done differently but I can deal with different styles of coaching as long as they’re having fun and learning. At the first game was when I realized there was a real problem. The coach’s son was the best player on the team so he never came off the field while Brennan and one of his friends played less than half the game. I have never been one to bite my tongue when it comes to sports or my children, so I pulled him aside and reminded him that all players are guaranteed to play at least half the game as this was a learning and recreational league and he actually responded that he shouldn’t be upset because we won the game. To say that I was distraught was an understatement and luckily my son walked up so that I didn’t fully express my opinion using my full vocabulary, but I sent an email to the commissioner asking to move his team which was denied. It was a long and difficult season and he cried at almost every practice and told me that he wanted to play another sport next time.
Luckily, after changing jobs again I was able to be an assistant coach this new season after he decided to try to play soccer again since I could be with him. When we play with just us two, he will battle me for every ball and play goalie while I shoot at him. When we get on the field, he loses all of his confidence and I know how much better he is but he gets so frustrated at times and needs to walk away. As a dad and as a coach, I can see the difference and want to give him the personal attention to him but then I know that he needs to be a part of the team and shouldn’t have any kind of special treatment. It is one of those times where we need to strike some kind of balance but allow the tough love to take over and let him learn to be a part of a team and that everyone has a role in the team.
It is very disheartening when I am coaching and some of the other parents and coaches take the games and themselves far too seriously. I pride myself on knowing the game inside and out, being certified to coach from the USSF and understanding that this is just a game. We won a game 7-0 last week and the other coach turned around to his team at 3-0 and told them on the bench that it wasn’t looking good. I couldn’t believe my ears! Once it hit 5-0, we had 4 players on the field and they had 6 and we were trying to get the team to pass it around and play keep away instead of shooting but they don’t understand that at 7, they know to try to score and try to win. When we were not having a good game and Brenn missed the ball and we were scored on and he started crying and getting angry, he knew that he sat down and wasn’t playing again until the game was fun again and that we don’t care about the score and that we wanted to have fun. Being around some of the other parents and coaches make me begin to lose faith in humanity, but when a child does something that they have been practicing and look up with a big smile, everything seems right in the world again!