There are plenty of examples to choose from but I will write about one that is near and dear to me. Not really.
I wrote about this team in another post. This is a team whose last year’s success was defined by one player. I don’t want to name names but for the sake of this post let’s call this player ‘Magalie’. They won their league, the cup and fell just short of winning nationals. Without ‘Magalie’ they definitely would not have achieved what they did. I did not watch one season game but u don’t need to be a math whiz to see that if u removed all of her stats the team record would have been drastically different. I did watch all their matches at nationals. Some a couple times. Watching those matches only confirmed what I already knew which is that the team isn’t really that good. During the matches ‘Magalie’ was off or shut down, the rest of the team had no solutions and were rendered ineffective. In the final, BC exposed them for what they are which is not very good (more later in this post). It was a one sided match and had BC had good finishers the score would have been a rout. In the end the team was awarded ‘team of the year’ and the coach got ‘coach of the year’. Deserving? Maybe on the team level, maybe, but coach? Why? Because he acquired a star player? Certainly not.
Anyway, flashback a few years when a certain coach was asked to take the reigns of a team that also had a ‘star’ player and that over the years was winning because of this star player. The only difference here was that once he accepted the coaching gig he was told that the star player, along with a 2nd star-ish player would be moved to the older team and that he’d have no access to them for the entire season. 👀… oh, I see what you did there Mr Technical Director! Ok, challenge accepted. Could this coach convince this team that they would be just fine without the star players? He sure did. He made them believe and they achieved greatness. Undefeated. First place. Championship. Was this achievement recognized? Hell no. At the very least, at the club level both team and/or coach should have been recognized. Instead the team’s achievement was actually played down by the club technical director. Played down!!! Why? He obviously expected the season to play out differently without the star player. And there lies the problem. The reward system is misplaced. What shouldn’t be rewarded is and what should, isn’t.
This season ‘Magalie’ was moved up to the older squad that over the last few seasons has been nothing better than a middle of the pack team. This year they are in first and have already qualified for nationals with games to spare. Coincidence? I think not. In all likelihood this means a team of the year and possibly a coach of the year. Again it begs the question… Deserving? No. Atleast not on the coach side.
Btw the team ‘Magalie’ played for last season now sits at middle of the pack with a .500 record this season. Remember this is the team that had one loss last season, won the division, cup and got to the finals at nationals. Coincidence? I think not. Just saying.
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.
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.
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 😁👍. 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.
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.
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. 😀
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? 😋.
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.