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.
Hilarious video.. and so true.. god almighty!!! Jesus help today’s youth!
At the beginning of the 2015 season I got a phone call from the technical director of our soccer club. He wanted me to take my daughter’s team for the 2015 season. Quite frankly I was incredibly surprised. So much so that I didn’t give him an answer right then and there. The fact is I was actually looking to move away from coaching altogether.. I had been doing it for so many years. Anyway, the first thing I needed to do was ask my daughter if she would be ok with it. The other reason I found this phone call to be surprising is that this TD’s main mandate and what he always preaches about is that he wants to eliminate (where he can) having parents coaching their own kid. So again imagine my surprise when he called, offered me my daughter’s team and told me it would be a good experience for me AND my daughter. A bit contradictory to his philosophy, no?
Anyway, my daughter was ecstatic about the idea so I jumped on board. I was still apprehensive because I had some big shoes to fill but I decided to take it on. Almost immediately I found out I would lose our two top players to the older age group and that I would not have access to them whatsoever during our season. I won’t lie. I wasn’t too happy with that but that anger lasted a split second. I realized I had a great challenge and opportunity at my hands. Teach this team how to play like a team.
Long story short, I did just that. I got them to believe in themselves individually. I got them to believe that every time they stepped on the field any of the 10 players could score. In fact, unlike previous years it was difficult for our opponents to shut down any one player because at any given match it could be someone else who did the scoring. The proof was in how well the goals were distributed.
I honestly don’t think anyone, including the TD, thought this team would succeed considering the loss of the 2 stronger players. Not only did we succeed, we actually surpassed expectations.. undefeated, 2 goals against, first place and championship. I will go as far as saying that it actually irked some people.
The girls got accolades for their efforts from anyone and everyone… and rightfully so.. I was blessed with being told I was being replaced for the 2016 season. The reasons? As hypocritical as they can get. Pure manure being tossed in my direction. Garbage. I kept reminding the TD that I was a parent on this team before being coach and long enough to see all kinds of shit happen and to boot I was on the board for many years where I heard all kinds of stories about coaches and the nonsense that occurred.. coaches that still coach today..it fell on deaf ears. HYPOCRITE !!! From the club President I got the ‘it’s a thankless job’ email.. ya.. it should be thankless because of the parents .. i mean, let’s face it you will never make EVERY parent happy.. that’s par for the course..it should however, not be a thankless job because of the technical director who should be there to support volunteer coaches and all we do.
The bottom line is that there is this circle that exists.. and I get that this exists everywhere but if you are not in this circle forget about it. It doesn’t matter what u do, how good u do it, how hard you work, if u’re not in, u’re not in. Plain and simple.
Take a look at this nonsense…
One of the things I stressed with the teams over the years of my coaching is the need to respect your opponent. To the girls I always told them that when they stepped on the field, their opponent needed to understand very quickly that they would not be successful in beating us. However, there always had to be respect. When I knew that our opponent was weak I would tell the girls that after a certain amount of goals we’d stop scoring. We would work instead on the areas of our game. That’s how things should be done. A 16-0 score line? That’s how things shouldn’t be done. I wasn’t at the match so maybe i shouldn’t pass judgment but I am sure things could have been handled differently. I am sure. This garbage of course is acceptable and you know why??? That circle I wrote of. That circle.