Anyone who has been reading my posts might start to think I am having a hard time letting go 😋. After many years I stepped back from youth soccer last season. However I still have a foot in the door because my daughter still plays competitively. My guess for many, including my daughter, is that it will their last year. I mean they’re going to turn 17 and for many there will be nowhere else to go after this so there is no incentive to continue.
Even though I am not active any more in any capacity information still finds its way to me. If it’s not through my daughter, it’s my wife or some other parent. I am truly glad that I am out of this toxic environment. Honestly wish I had done it sooner or better yet never.
Over the many years, no matter who the technical director was, as coaches we were always reminded of two things: transparency and fair play. I mean we were taught many things but these two items were drilled into our heads by the TD. The problem with this is that some technical directors are like 📺 evangelists. What’s that expression? Do as I say not as I do.
In an ideal world you are supposed to apply both at 100% but it’s impossible to do when the Technical Director himself doesn’t follow through on it either at 100%.
Here are two examples where both transparency and fair play can be applied.
1) as coaches we’re told never to guarantee a spot to a returning or new player during the tryout period.
2) As coaches we’re told that when it comes down to finalizing the roster and you have players with similar skills look to choose the player that showed commitment during the tryouts.
Easier said than done. It basically never happens.
Case in point this winter. There is a player on my daughter’s team who is a multi sport player. As a family they’ve made it clear for years now which sport that takes priority. It’s the other one 😋. These past fews years they’ve shown very little commitment to soccer during the winter months. It’s hard to do when your other sport is hockey but at the same time there should be some degree of compromise which from what I gather there isn’t much of. Here’s the kicker. She was guaranteed a spot early on in the winter in writing (rookie mistake on the coach’s part) and while she has missed a significant amount of training sessions she continues to play full games. And these are just meaningless matches. Is she a great player? No. But I will say she is a decent soccer player. Having said that though there are better skilled players on this team that have shown more commitment that deserve a spot on the team ahead of her.
I coached this team four years ago and alot can and has happened since. I can tell you this much though. Four years ago during a winter tryout session I was pulled aside by the current technical director and was told to cut this player from the team. She was one of three he wanted me to cut. I chose not to cut any of the three. Again, I know that alot can change in four years but now, even for the technical director, she’s untouchable. There is something called principle and some folks have a hard time with that starting with the guy at the top.
I am sure some of you honed in on the fact that I had an opportunity to cut this player four years ago and didn’t. The explanation is pretty simple and straightforward. Going in as a first year coach with the team I made the decision beforehand that I would not cut any player. I wanted to give every player a chance to prove themselves during the summer season. At one point during the winter session a very skilled player from another club came wanting to tryout. When it came down to finalizing the roster, this new player deserved a spot and so I pleaded with the technical director to allow me to carry an extra player so I wouldn’t have to cut anyone. He wouldn’t have any of it so at the 11th hour I cut a player who was not as skilled and who for the better part of the winter tryout period was injured. A difficult decision but it was the correct decision.
Before I get into my rant I will mention that there are always two sides to every story. All of my posts are opinion pieces. This one is no different.
This season the steelers had some drama to contend with. They started the season with one distraction and ended with another. Le’veon Bell held out at the beginning of the season and in the end failed to report on time and therefore was no longer eligible to play. Antonio Brown was benched for the final game of the season for some altercation during a practice. It’s not the first time he’s created drama as well.
As it the case with everyone on this planet, we must take care of our own well being. Both Bell and Brown are doing that. They feel they’ve been wronged and they chose not to accept that. Fine. Here’s my beef though, do you have to be babies about it? Literally man children and quite honestly I blame social media especially twitter for giving these pros a platform to be man children. Bell on many occasions used twitter to imply (whether through emojis, cryptic tweets or stupid one liners) that he was coming back while going completely dark on his teammates. In the end he did not. He messed with people’s emotions and that’s not cool. And please let’s not argue that it wasn’t premeditated. It was. On a side note yet somewhat related, I was unfortunate enough to draft Bell in my fantasy football league this year but thanks to my shrewd managerial skills I won the championship in spite of that so screw youuuu Le’veon Bell!!! No resentment here at all 😋. Brown also decided to take a page out of Bell’s PlayBook and hopped onto twitter to put out these cryptic tweets that just do nothing but show the level of immaturity of some of these professional players. Steelers TE Jesse James said it best, the steelers were worse than the Kardashians this year. On the news for all the wrong reasons.
The sad thing is that both these players have been problematic in the past and you would think no team would want to touch them. That assumption would be wrong. There are teams willing to take that chance.
PS: I am not a steelers fan.
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. 😋
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 😋. 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.
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.