Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Herding Kittens

I played soccer from age four until my early twenties.  Most of those years my dad was the coach of my city league and select teams.  It seemed only natural for me to follow in his footsteps when becoming a dad myself with children of age, interested in the sport.  Thus far that is Michael but Mackenzie has talked about playing next Spring. 

I knew when I took on the role last year that my primary challenge would just be to get all the players headed in the right direction.  Soccer at that age is like a continuous rugby scrum moving all about the field.  Occassionally the ball will break loose from this moving globual of players and the fastest athletes usually chase it down and get a scoring opportunity.  Wash, rinse, repeat and you've seen just about every K4 soccer game ever played. 

This is not to imply at all that my return on invested time is without a payoff.  It was very rewarding to see my team actually head the right direction, rely on me for guidance, and have them hug my neck when they acheived.  Additionally this particular sports program is Christian based and allowed me multiple opportunities to talk about Christ with the boys.  Last but not least, I basked in the joy of carrying on the father/son, coach/player tradition first started by me and my dad years ago. 

So as this season began just four weeks ago, I thought I had a decent idea of what to expect from my players.  I thought there might be some possibility of teaching more complex mechanics but still expected the overall exercise to be akin to herding kittens and just enjoying the chaotic rythum of the game.  But then it happened.  In last Saturday's game and again yesterday during a practice scrimmage I saw my team take shape.  I saw the players calling for the ball, passing it to one another, playing in actual positions, and putting together plays that resulted in goals scored.  I saw my boys taking the drills we worked on earlier in the week and applying them to a game situation.  And it wasn't just the couple of hot-shot players that performed and impressed me this week.  All of my guys contributed in big ways.  My own son, who is very athletic but not very aggressive at this stage in life, scored his first goal in addition to making an awesome defensive play.

Suddenly it occurred to me.  They really are listening.  An impact is being made and  the measurable results were right in front of me.  These kids are devloping into soccer players.  Sure...they still have a long way to go.  And of course the games will still have a chaotic flare to them for another year or so.  But something has finally clicked.  The dynamics of the game have begun to make sense to these boys.  For a coach...win or lose...that is the ultimate payoff!

And it helps that we won too!  :)

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