A Blessing In Disguise?
Last night as I was walking past one of our local soccer fields it got me thinking about my recent years at the soccer club I spent a good 15 years at. Could my crossing paths with the current technical director of this club who literally destroyed my passion for youth soccer and coaching have been a blessing? In a crazy way I think it was. I mean at the time the shit went down obviously I didn’t see it that way but three years have passed and so in retrospect this revelation has actually come three years too late. You see, rather than just call it a day three years ago I actually returned and last year was on the coaching staff with the technical director himself. I mean think about this. Imagine getting fired from a paying job only to return to work for free for the person that FIRED YOU!! That has to be the dumbest thing anyone could ever do and yet I managed to do that. I even had someone tell me straight to my face ‘what are you thinking?’ ..I wish he had said it differently. Like ‘what is wronggggg with youuuu?’ a la Rajesh from big bang theory. Atleast I would have gotten a kick out of that.
Anyway, leaving this toxic environment has been the best thing to happen to me. I lead a stress free life. I mean let me rephrase that. I lead a stress free soccer life. Life outside of soccer still has its stresses. However I’ll take the life stresses over this toxic environment and all the shit it brings any day of the week. Now I simply live vicariously through my daughter. I go watch her play and stay away from everything that is toxic. Including some of the parents.
Time to Hang Up The Coaching Cleats
After 14 years I decided this season would be my last as a volunteer soccer coach. Fourteen years. That is a long time. I could make this post a very, very long one but I won’t. It will only be a long-ish one 😋. Although there were some bumps in the road, the 14 years for the most part were great years. I’d be lying if I wrote that I remember every single detail of these 14 years. I don’t.
When I set out on this adventure, it was innocent enough and really for my son. You want to do right by everyone but eventually you realize you cannot. It is impossible. I don’t have any regrets but certainly I wish I could have done some things differently. You want to be everyone’s friend but you cannot and will not. I definitely learned a lot over the years. From the great moments, to the good moments and also the not so good moments. I definitely made friends over the years but I also made a lot of what I will refer to as FBFFS … fake best friends forever. These are the folks that needed something from me and so either befriended me or family members for motives that were anything but sincere. There are a lot of bad people in this world.. But you know what? To each his own. I am far from perfect but I would rather be me then some of the folks I got to know over these years. From the down right evil, to insecure people who need to be the center of attention, to parents who think it’s ok to trash talk kids because as long as the kid doesn’t hear it, no harm no foul. To bullies and to those parents that supported this bullying. To parents who themselves bullied but poo poo’d when the tables were turned. My biggest disappointment came four years ago when a family we had such a fantastic friendship with over many many years turned out to be less than the people we thought they were. It truly shattered our family. I can go on and on but that would take away the good that came out of all these years as coach. For one, I continue to watch as these kids are growing up to be fine young adults. It’s amazing to see. Many I have known since they were 4-5 years old. As much as you want to be that coach that affected, in a good way, all the players that crossed your path, it doesn’t work out that way but I know that I did so with many. I have had the opportunity to reminisce in recent years with former players and it’s always a great feeling. Four years ago our family had the pleasure of hosting a 14 year old young man for three months during the summer. What a pleasure indeed. So disciplined. So caring. So focused. A truly genuine lad beyond his years who also showed true friendship to my son; unlike some others. We learned a lot from each other; our cultures. It’s something I will forever cherish and remember. I continue to follow his success in football (he’s gotten a scholarship in the US) and I expect to see him one day in the NFL quarterbacking a team all the way to the Super Bowl. No doubt in my mind 😀👍. It was his birthday over the weekend and I wished him well and he sent love our way. Very heartfelt. This is the kind of stuff you live for. The bad, you toss aside. As with anything, quality over quantity. There are alot more moments but if I don’t stop myself this will indeed become a very very long post!
I would be incredibly remiss if I didn’t write about what a great human being my son is. A fine young adult as well. He had to endure a lot over these years. An exceptional player at a very young age, he went through difficult times starting at age 13 when everyone around him was growing but he wasn’t. It became a struggle for him on the pitch and he suffered for it. Both on and off for several years. Many a time he had to endure being collateral damage on account of my being a coach. Very difficult for a kid to go through but he showed strength in overcoming this and we are proud of who he is becoming. In his first year at college last year he made the Dean’s list twice. That’s who he is. We know he will achieve greatness. That’s what matters. A few years ago an ‘adult’ went on this rant on Facebook about heroes and zeroes. He was trying to send a message. It was ridiculous especially coming from him and the hypocrite and bully he is. Well.. Let me tell you, I strive to be a hero to my kids. That’s all that is important to me but in the end for all he had to go through my son is my hero.
I stopped coaching my son three years ago. The plan was to retire then but I was talked into staying on. I wish I hadn’t. The past few years have been an eye opener. my expectations and what actually happened, night and day. At the beginning of this season I made it clear it would be my last. Over these many years I put my heart and soul into this. I worked very hard at it. As a family we sacrificed alot. It’s time now to make our family the center of attention. Yup, it’s actually a very very late wake up call but in the end better late than never.
The Dark Side of Youth Sports
The idea behind youth sports is to make it about the kids and initially that is always the case. We get our kids into recreational sports to give them a chance to learn a sport, be active, socialize, have an outlet and hopefully make some life long friendships. That’s how it always starts. Everything changes when you transition into the competitive side. A different beast altogether . As parents we all tend to lose our shit and as coaches we realize that we will never make everyone happy. I spent many years as coach of a competitive team. There are times now that I wish I could have done some things differently. I do however have no regrets. I think that dwelling on things from the past is wasted energy. One thing that I always struggled with while coaching was that dreaded moment when you had to tell a young kid that he didn’t make the team or tell a player who was on the team that they were being replaced. I’d always have so much anxiety. I don’t think I can remember one time that actually went well. As soon as the word ‘unfortunately ‘ leaves your mouth that parent who is standing there with their kid stops listening.. essentially u become the teacher from Charlie Brown.. no explanation you give them, even if it’s the best most logical explanation in the world will register. They are angry, they are formulating their comeback and nothing u say will appease them. That parent will then proceed to tell you why you are wrong. It never fails. I hated that moment so much.
The biggest thing I learned while coaching is that although youth sports is meant to create friendships, it doesn’t. As coach I am everyone’s ‘friend’ because they need something from me. If you also have a son on the team you coach, he unfortunately becomes collateral damage in this as he too will have ‘friends’. As long as you choose a person’s kid you are the best coach in the world. If you cut this player down the road, you are the scum of the earth.
I thought i had this one parent who was a true friend. Turns out I was wrong. At one point, I was not coach of the team and his son was cut by the then current coach. I was there acting as assistant coach but had no say in his decision. That didn’t stop this parent from sending me a scathing email. As perplexed as I was to receive this email, It was hard to read. He made a point of telling me that almost noone liked me in the west island. Ouch. On the positive side atleast it wasn’t everyone ;). Also, in all likelihood those that didn’t like me, I didn’t like back. So even. Now what’s interesting about this parent is that while I coached his son not only was he one of my favorite players, he played quite a bit for me and eventually I chose him as captain. I treated him like my own son but in the end that meant nothing.
I am finding out now from my wife that my brother in law is going through the same thing in hockey. He coaches his young son’s team and he’s going through difficult years. He’s been vilified, hated and lost many friends. I had to remind my wife that these people are not true friends. I do feel for him. I can say that although I don’t have regrets, that I learned from the past, that I don’t dwell over it… if I could turn back time and restart I would choose not to be a coach. Not for what I went through but for the collateral damage that occurred for my son.
When is One Accomplishment More Deserving Than Another?
In mid November I will be attending a gala… turns out I am getting an award. I wasn’t planning to go but got all kinds of heat from my wife so we will attend. I’ll write about it after the gala. For now, picture this…
Scenario 1: a coach inherits an average middle of the pack team and in his first season as coach brings them to first place and the cup final where they lose a close match. That’s pretty impressive.
Scenario 2: a coach inherits a strong first place team but has its two strongest players removed. These 2 skilled players are added to the older team and this coach is told he cannot have access to them all season. In his first season as coach, the team doesn’t miss a beat, continues its winning ways, finishes first undefeated and one ups it from the previous season by winning the cup. That’s pretty impressive.
The question is which of these two coaches is deserving of an award? Coach 1? Coach 2? Both? Neither? Because youth sports is not about winning. It’s a tough call but everyone will choose coach 1. I think coach 2 is just as deserving. Coach 2 had big shoes to fill, had key players removed… almost like he was being set up to fail and yet the team showed no signs of cracking in the foundation.
The gala hasn’t happened yet so I could be wrong but my guess is coach 1 is getting an award. I can confirm that coach 2 didn’t get an award.
PS: I am not coach 1