soccer

Sunday morning coffee with a little musing: Coaching youth sports is tough.

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Coaching youth sports is a thankless job. Well, it becomes thankless once you get into the competitive side of things. My only experience is with soccer but there is no doubt this story is common across the whole spectrum of youth sports.

Picture this. Two teams who had a stellar season. Both achieved greatness. Both finished in first place in their division. Both made it to nationals. You would think that there would be nothing but euphoria, right? Not the case. In both camps you had disgruntled parents and players. How do I know this? Well I still get information come my way from people who are still very much in the loop. I don’t have details but it always ends up being the same thing… threats by players (ie: parents) that they will leave the team if the coach doesn’t get replaced. I even heard that some players on the younger team will ‘strike’ if their current coach doesn’t get replaced for next season. That’s a new one. They must be unionized. Imagine, this on a team that lost ONE game all season long. Players. Why so serious?

From what I heard this week it appears these players will get their wish. Apparently the coach of the other disgruntled team will take over this disgruntled team. Four quarters for a dollar. Lol. That’s basically the solution the technical director of this club has for everything. As long as you are in his circle, he’ll just keep moving you from team to team until there are no other teams left for you to move to and piss off. Apparently he thinks information doesn’t get around. πŸ˜‹
I really don’t know what the issues on these two successful teams are but I can assume that the major one is playing time or lack of it for some of the players. And also what is perceived as favouritism. Obviously as a parent who is spending alot of $$$ for your child to be in high level soccer you are expecting to get your moneys worth. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen for some players. In high level ⚽, that’s just the way the ball rolls (See what I did there? 😁)
You have the starting 11. Usually that means the strongest 11 on the team and then you have the bench players. These are the players that will come off the bench but in all likelihood would never start a game or play an entire game. At times, given the game situation some of these bench players may not even get playing time. It’s tough. It’s tough on that player, it’s tough on the parents but it’s also tough on the coach (something that is always overlooked). Here’s the thing though and I experienced it first hand as well. When a coach spells this out at the parents meeting before the season starts, noone says a word. No parent comes out and says that it’s an unfair practice. Why? Because each parent thinks it won’t be their kid. The shit hits the fan when it becomes their kid that is being affected. And in the end the solution is always to leave for greener pastures. It’s never about working harder to see if as a player you can become that starter. Nowadays, It all boils down to entitlement. You expect everything without working for it. Sorry but not sorry. The pattern is always the same. Instead of working harder, said player starts to miss practice more frequently. Becomes unavailable for games. Especially the away games where the travel is far. Why the hell work hard for something when there is an easier solution? Not happy? No problem. Leave for greener pastures until that pasture too no longer is green.
I know both coaches. They work hard at this. They’ve been the coach for their respective team for a few years so I am sure there have been issues in one form or another for years. The one advantage is that if you’re in the technical directors circle and are basically a ‘yes man’ you are given the heads up and the benefit of the doubt so you get to last a few years with the team. Unfortunately for one the time was up; yes man or not. I am almost sure that for the coach that is being replaced it will be played out that it was his decision to step away on a high note πŸ˜‹. Doubt it.

PS: playing time isn’t the only issue facing youth coaches but if I got into it, this post would be a novel and no longer morning so I will just leave it at that as I am already pushing the whole ‘morning’ thing.

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Lack of commitment + lack of support = Difficult season

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My daughters team is sandwiched between two age groups whose respective teams are having a great season. This team however is struggling. The last time this team had a stellar campaign was in 2015. I was their coach. Just putting it out there 😁. They have struggled since. As a matter of fact when the season started my daughter did not want me to go watch as they were struggling. At the half way point though we made a deal that I’d go watch only the home games. And if she felt she didn’t want me at any particular game I would not go.

Anyway, there is talent on this team. What it lacks is commitment. It doesn’t matter how good an individual player is, when there isn’t collective commitment it’s hard to succeed as a team. In a competitive environment, the biggest trigger to lack of commitment is lack of playing time. When a player doesn’t get playing time, their will to commit is nonexistent. In today’s generation it is very difficult to find young kids/young adults who are willing to fight it out and work hard toward achieving something. If they don’t get what they want, they won’t work for it. They either quit altogether or leave for ‘greener pastures’. There are very little values instilled nowadays. It’s want, want, want without working for it. It’s terrible.

Players, not getting the playing time you want? Parents, coaches, friends…Listen… @kobebryant talks about the mentality it takes to get what you want. @espnsbrother https://t.co/v7looolmpC

The other issue this team is facing is the lack of support from the technical director and also the coaches below and above this team. I was in the loop for many years. I know the drill. At the beginning of every season you get the defacto email from the TD that he and his staff will support any decision you make as a coach and will be there in general to support in any capacity. Bull, Fuckin’ Shit. The TD has shown very little interest in this team. I saw this lack of support back in 2015 when I coached the team. The difference then is that I knew what I was doing and the team was immensely successful πŸ˜πŸ‘. The other issue is the lack of support coming from the other two coaches that could be helping but are not. Both the coaches of the younger and older team have players that they can send to this team to help support but they don’t. Another thing that happens at the beginning of each season (atleast I think it still does) is that coaches are told that they must support the other teams in the club when required. That as coaches they should not refuse a request for players when it happens. Another resounding bull shit. Both these teams have players that don’t get alot of playing time with their respective teams that could be sent to help this team but the coaches refuse. Why? Because they are chasing first place. Terrible. And do you think anything gets done about it? Of course not. Who are we kidding. I feel for this teams coaching staff. It’s a terrible feeling when you don’t get support from those that ‘promised’ it would be there.

Can a team be defined by one player?

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Yes.

Literally that one answer could be my entire post but it won’t be 😁. We see it in professional sports all the time. I don’t think I need to name names. So it should not come as surprise that it happens in youth sports as well. This season is the first season where I have not been involved in youth coaching in any capacity. I have had a great summer so far πŸ˜‹. It doesn’t mean though that I am completely out of the loop. I still follow but to a lesser degree. There is this one team in our club that ‘on paper’ is having a stellar campaign. They are undefeated. Will probably end the season undefeated. Will most likely win the championship. And will in all likelihood head to nationals. So? Are they really that good a team? I don’t really know. I have not watched one game of theirs. I don’t have any reason to. However, just like on paper they look to be a great team, this paper also helps paint a different picture as well. A small time spent looking over all their matches so far and you can’t help but notice a certain pattern. Or i should say a certain player. Some simple math shows that if you subtract said player from the team and subtract all her goals this team would have a drastically different record. Night and day. She is not a home grown player and one could argue that if she had not come to this team they could have gotten another player of her calibre. Maybe. But impossible to predict that their record would be as good as it is right now. Clearly without her it wouldn’t be. Here’s what having such a player does though. This team’s record is getting noticed by other talented players currently on other teams who may be struggling. These players will show up next season with the hopes of being selected so they can be on a better team. Eventually the home grown players will be replaced with these out of club players and the team will become a bonafide powerhouse just like their 2 year older sibling sisters.

The irony with all this is that you will hear coaches and technical directors talk about ‘development’. That word is as useless as ‘transparent’. Ultimately it never really is about development. It’s about winning. Do you think that the coach of this talented player who has factored in every single game would sit her a game or more knowing that they have not yet clinched first? No. Way. That’s because it’s not about development. It’s about winning.

Yesterday was ‘pick a fight day’ on twitter

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On two separate occasions yesterday I found myself involved in interesting twitter interactions. Both soccer related. After the England/Sweden match I tweeted the following:

To which a guy with the twitter handle ‘Blessed‘ replied…

I followed that up with…

…and although u don’t see it his reply was ‘right back at you’ .. Using Joey for obvious reasons.

Here’s the thing my initial reply was going to be a lot different. Originally it was ‘wow. Brilliant comeback. I hope you didn’t hurt yourself coming up with that one. ‘ but I decided to take the high road (notice the hashtag). Look, even if England wins it and in all likelihood they will be in the final, it changes nothing about what I wrote. To this point it is accurate and the truth. Unfortunately…

At every tournament whether euro or world there is always a team that is destined. Maybe this year England is the team and they will bring it home. Their only real challenge will come in the final and you know what they say .. At any given match on any given day anything can happen. To this point they have not impressed. Yesterday my buddy disagreed that Sweden was not a strong opponent. He said that England did a great job shutting them down. I totally disagreed. Later he admitted that he has big money on England winning it all. Well, There. You. Go.

The second incident happened later in the day after I watched my daughters team beat the first place team in youth soccer (16s). The league has this MVP system in place where opposing coaches pick an MVP (2 for the winning team) from the opposing team at each game. The selections for our team chosen by the other coaches was in my opinion somewhat dubious. This same coaching staff last year after a match picked an MVP from my daughters team who was actually in a leg cast on the bench injured!!! πŸ˜‚. So excuse me if I have my doubts about their picks. Of course I tweeted this knowing very well one of the coaches would see it. We follow each other on twitter. We are certainly not drinking buddies as I am old enough to be his father but I think we have a mutual respect for each other. His response was that the MVP system is a joke and that no one really stood out on my daughters team. So they picked who they picked. Basically he said they picked the best of the worse, I guess. Some time later the other coach, who I don’t know, replied by writing ‘its better that I don’t respond to this…’ and then went on to give his two cents… isn’t that a response though? πŸ˜‚

Anyway his main argument, sarcastically, was that they then should have awarded the MVP to the player that blocked the most shots inside the 18 but that would have been hard since it was all 11 of them doing that. First off, I think blocking shots is part of the game, no? Any time you can help your goalie shouldn’t you? You see it in hockey all the time. Secondly, there is a player in the starting 11 whose job is literally to block shots and stop them from going in the net; the goalie. How can u possibly take a guy who doesn’t realize this seriously. πŸ˜‚ .. Then very late during the night their club assistant technical director also chimed in. He too regards the MVP system to be a joke. At the end of the day though who made this system a joke? Wouldn’t that be the coaches? So instead of taking the high road and being better than the ‘joke’ they aren’t. Instead they are just part of the pblm.

As you can see.. Not much fighting going on here… lol.. We all have opinions and that’s great and our right but I don’t waste too much time constantly engaging to the point where it will just inevitability degenerate into something stupid.

Oh and I won’t even get into it in this post but I love when the first line of defense from coaches is about their job being about ‘development’. So you can’t be bothered to make a fair and intelligent pick for MVP because Ur too busy ‘developing’ players. Lol. Jesus.

A Blessing In Disguise?

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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.

I Retired, Un-Retired for a New York Minute and Retired Again.

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A few months back I wrote about retiring from youth soccer after many, many years. During the off season I was approached to return for the 2018 season. After talking to my family I decided to go for one more season. Both my wife and daughter wanted me to. I gotta tell you it was very surprising that my wife was my biggest cheerleader since she’s been wanting me to get out for many years now. Anyway last November during a coach’s symposium I had a conversation with a coach who I consider a friend. We talked about a few things including my returning and he told me that I should return if I still have the passion for it. Otherwise I should never do it for someone else. Pretty simple, right? That really got me thinking about my last three years since I coached the U13s. I realized he was right. I returned not for me but for someone else. The fact is that since 2015 things haven’t really gone the way I thought they would go. That 2015 season was an eye opener and in the end thanks to this conversation I realize that I don’t have it in me any longer. So this past week I had a conversation with the technical director and current coach of the seniors team I was to return to and advised him that I want to stay retired. The conversation went well and he understood. Honestly, I feel so much weight lifted off my shoulders. So it was close. That expression ‘I tried to get out but they keep pulling me back in’ no longer applies to me! Phew. πŸ˜€

So i googled to find out how long a New York minute lasts… well, ok… my unretirement lasted longer but it adds to my post title, no? πŸ˜‹.

Time to Hang Up The Coaching Cleats

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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 πŸ˜‹. 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 πŸ˜€πŸ‘. 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.