A Thankless Job

“Coaching is a thankless job” I will always remember the President of my local soccer league addressing the room full of parent coaches.  Boy, was she correct. I first volunteered to coach soccer when my daughter turned 5. I signed on as an assistant coach and can still remember the initial phone call from the head coach. He spoke with a thick Brooklyn accent, and had a nervousness in his voice “welcome to the team, and thanks for stepping up to help out.”  He was a former MLB player, and had a certain intensity to him. Some of his after hours baseball stories were jaw droppers. The whistle would blow, the game would begin, and the swarm of 5 year old girls was off, moving around the field like a magnet to the ball. Coach would scream and encourage, and made a lot of noise when our girls would score a goal. When his daughter scored, oh man.  I didn’t know any better at that time, so I too would yell “Ruuuun—fasterrrr”. At one point there was a parent in her full length fur coat, with two lap dogs by her side, and in her thick English accent stated  “I think this is a bit much.” Looking back, she was correct; at that time I didn’t know any better.

One of the hardest parts with driving the bus is accommodating some of the less fortunate kids. In my second year of coaching, I had a 6 year old who played on crutches.  Even though she is to be commended for stepping up and playing, it was tough to see.  At this young age, it is fairly normal for some kids to catch on slower than others, both physically and mentally. The trick as head coach is to make everyone feel equal on the team, but to make each kid feel special.

Practice would be held 1 late afternoon a week and games were on Saturday mornings.  Some parents would hang around to help out, but most simply dropped off their kids.  Of course parents wouldn’t always return on time, so eventually I would just plan on hanging around for an additional 15 minutes.

This day in age, parents are eager to start their kids early—so that they don’t miss a step and get left behind. I was the same way. However, kids typically aren’t sports ready until their teens anyway. I always approached coaching with the attitude that the most important part of my job was to see that the kids had fun and learned some things. It did feel good when we won and when my kids scored goals, but I was certainly not as intense as some other coaches.

George Righter

About George Righter

American composer and musician who lives for the outdoors.

10. November 2011 by George Righter
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