Spring is fast approaching, and, with it, little kids will soon be swarming around orange cones in our local parks in their awkward shin guards. Another Brookside Soccer season is nearing.
For years, I coached a Brookside soccer team. While I hear horror stories of out-of-control parents and bratty kids, my experience was nothing like that. I had parents who were uniformly supportive, and a group of kids I still remember fondly. SW was a quick and physical player with a sense of humor that challenged my own ability to suppress grins and laughter as he would mimic referees giving pregame structures. AM was probably the best player I ever coached; his skill with the ball was a mystery until his father showed up at practice wants and participated in a casual scrimmage. JC was a big friendly kid with a natural ability to kick the ball a mile.
While many teams improved over the years, our team suffered a relative deterioration. Brookside soccer is a recreational/instructional league, and I promised myself and the parents that I would never yell negative things at a child placed in my care. While I probably did not achieve 100% compliance with my pledge, I think I came pretty close.
The unintended side effect was that utterly nonathletic kids who were shamed off of most other teams in most other sports came to love playing soccer for Coach Ryan. Other teams purified their talent pool while mine attracted the runoff.
The missed opportunity to craft a killer team was one I happily surrendered. Several parents with talented kids chose to place them on more challenging teams so they would develop their skills more rapidly. That was absolutely the right thing to do. At least a couple kids I coached showed signs of growing into a budding high school or even college star, and I don’t think my coaching style and talents were ideally suited to sharpening those skills.
Ultimately, the parents were in charge and, like I said before, I wound up with an incredible group of parents. The only time I was ever confronted by a parent about playing time was once when JC got to play a little longer than the rest. His parents just wanted to make sure I wasn’t favoring their son at the expense of another child. I explained the scheduling quirk that caused the extra time and they went away happy. I went away with a clearer understanding of why JC is such a good kid.
Now, when I drive through the city in the springtime, and I see the groups of kids clustered around a beleaguered coach, I start thinking I ought to lose my extra pounds and volunteer next year to coach a fresh batch of soccer players. Then, sanity kicks in, and I realize that my work and travel schedule would not allow weekday afternoon practice sessions, and I am forgetting the cold Saturday mornings with questionable whether. My days of coaching are over, but I’m awfully glad I had them. I hope there are a few coaches out there now having an experience as wonderful as mine.