COACHES CORNER: When you first start coaching

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When you first start coaching – be it your initial foray as a parent coach or the beginning of a new season with a new team for a more seasoned recreational coach, figuring out what to cover in a practice can be daunting. This is often especially true after you have seen them in their first competition – the list of “things they need to work on” feels endless. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and it’s best to go in with a plan.

First, give some thought to the skills you would like to introduce and the topics you would generally like to cover over the span of the season and work from there. Be realistic and age/developmentally appropriate with your expectations and goals.

Pick a theme for the practice. Keep it focused. Don’t worry too much about correcting non-theme related “issues” that come up in that practice (might be no need to address a missed passing opportunity if you are introducing and working on moves to get around a defender)

Incorporate that theme into the progressive stages of your session: warm up, drills, game-type situation. Emphasize throughout. Regardless of the theme – keep it fun and keep them active.

Be over prepared. Occasionally an activity will be a bust and you’ll need to change course. Having extra theme related ideas as part of your plan will prevent you from panicking and (hopefully) the 7 year olds from finding the dandelions more interesting than practice.

Keep building on the themes each week. But repeating an entire practice plan (with tweaks based on what worked and what didn’t) can be a good thing for everyone too!

And finally, whether it be at the beginning of practice as players are arriving (great incentive for kids to arrive on time) or at the end as your final activity, it is always a good idea to give them an opportunity to just play at each session– scrimmaging with no restrictions and little to no coaching!

View another COACHES CORNER article here.

Our Stay at Home, Trying to Stay Healthy Journey

When asked, via text, from friends and family about how my boys and I are doing during this stay at home time, I inevitably respond, “We have each had our meltdowns, but are mostly hanging in there.” This is the truth. Some days are definitely better than others.

I have seen several jokes about the ups and downs of having a “quarenTWEEN” – and I can relate. Having usually active 11 and 13-year old’s that are now doing remote learning, often begrudgingly, while also managing my own full-time work from home has presented a fair share of emotions and drama – from all of us. However, we have also done our best to find moments of gratitude, try to make the most of it, and come up with a loose “quaranROUTINE” that includes drinking more water and getting outside together to move our bodies in some way every day. We are trying to take this “opportunity” of togetherness and no official schedule to work on things that we did not have or find the time for previously.

With no recess, gym, or organized sports, the boys have not had their regular outlets for competition, so one thing we have adopted is (mostly) friendly water challenges. None of us in our household usually drinks enough of this liquid gold – so we are working on creating a new habit while also having fun with it. We sprinkle random water slams and races throughout the day. Any of us can declare one at any time, and when someone makes the call, we all must step up to drink up the H20. Win-win.

My younger, the dog, and I have been running a mile a day. It was exciting to see his progress as I encouraged him the first couple of times, we got out there. Now he is the one asking me, “when are we going to run today, Mom?”  After we finish, the three of us join the older, who is at the local park, working on breaking some not-so-positive soccer habits he has developed over time. I have observed him improving areas of his skill game that he had not focused on for years. He uses video on the phone to record himself and see what self-adjustments he can make. Locked ankles. Correct technique. Weak foot. Repeat. Perfect practice makes perfect, as his wise grandfather often reminds him.

Occasionally, we mix it up with mini head juggling or quick passing sessions. Timing each other doing short sprints. Setting personal goals and being able to mark the improvement that continued effort brings. I find I am discovering new things about each of them and their learning styles and observing more about my parenting approach and myself during these moments.

We will try to carry over some of our new daily practices when that time comes to emerge from this stay at home period.  My hope is that you have been able to find what works best for your family and circumstances and that amidst the inevitable “meltdowns” that you are also “mostly hanging in there.”

Hey Coach, Are YOU Having Fun Yet?

Early in my coaching career, I realized that no matter how hard my day had been or how tired I was, I inevitably left practice or time with the team I was coaching in a better mood than when I had arrived. I was and still am consistently energized by sharing my love for the game, by the “aha” moments, by hard work, and the list could go on.

While “fun” comes in different forms for every person, if you aren’t having fun as the coach, chances are high that the kids likely aren’t having much fun either.

What is the stuff fun is made of for you? How can you bring it to your coaching?

This is a friendly reminder to keep it fun, for them and for you!

COACHES CORNER: Does Nutmeg Really Belong in the Kitchen?!

I have a kid who truly loves playing soccer. There is a long list of amazing byproducts of this, including great friendships (for the kid and for me!) and learning important life skills and big life lessons (yes, again, for both us).

If I’m honest, there is also a short list of minor annoyances that have resulted from it.

Most of those are obvious: stinky cleats, missing shin pad sleeves, an ever evolving rotation of lost water bottles…There is also a not so well known one. Top of this list is something that nobody warned me about and I would never have guessed was “a thing.”

Apparently, kids who are (healthily?) obsessed with this beautiful game like to dribble a soccer ball around the house and try to surprise attack a parent – or truthfully anyone or thing, including the dog – by stealthily getting the ball between someone’s legs at inopportune times. This can happen pretty much anywhere but seems to occur most often to me while I’m cooking or doing dishes. I’ve learned (see aforementioned great friendships) that this is going on in other households as well. It is an actual thing! So I ask:

DOES NUTMEG REALLY BELONG IN THE KITCHEN?!?

I don’t actually have an answer for this. But it brought me relief and laughter to learn that I am not alone in my struggle to stand with feet at just the right defending angle and distance apart so as not to get exposed while at the oven or sink.

Nutmeg. ‘Tis the season…

COACHES CORNER: I Love to Watch You Play…HONESTLY!

By now, many parents have probably heard/read that the main or only thing you should say to your young player after a game is “I love to watch you play.” While I wholeheartedly believe this to be true (even if difficult to practice at times), I think that there could be an “also” added to the parental responsibility: also mean it! And by mean it, I mean actually WATCH them play.

I learned early on that my boys were watching me to see if I was watching them. They would occasionally glance over to check in with me, looking for acknowledgment, after doing something on the field or while waiting as a sub on the sideline. Afterward, almost without fail, I would get the post-game questions of “Did you see that time….?” or “Remember when I did….?” They weren’t always referring to a big play they made – sometimes it was something silly that happened, but they wanted to know if I had noticed, if we had had a shared experience. Ultimately, it mattered to them that I bear witness to what they had shown up to do.

This became even more obvious to me when the questions began to change as they got a bit older: “Dad, can you not be on your phone the whole time?”, “Mom, can you not spend the entire game visiting with _____(fill in the blank with another player’s parent’s name)?” While it was by no means the case that I had been chatting through an entire game, my son had likely just never caught me looking because he was engrossed in his own playing. But his perception was important to me, and ultimately, I understood that he just wanted to be seen. This theory was confirmed further when, before a practice, I got a: “Mom, can you watch me play today?”

I don’t think this desire is specific to my kids. In my years of coaching, I have also observed other players behaving similarly, especially in rec programs and early on in a child’s sports playing experience.

Our kids are asking us to be present.

This doesn’t mean that they are asking for additional feedback or critique. It does mean that they actually want you to be more than just their personal Uber and pay attention – which is really great news!

And in the end, you can honestly (and JUST) say “I love to watch you play.”

View another COACHES CORNER article here.

COACHES CORNER: Making Meaningful Connections

The recreational soccer seasons are usually quite short and coaches often
don’t get enough contacts or time with their players. As a parent
coach, we can get so caught up in our agenda of the nuts and bolts list of
things we want to teach the players in practice and the season that we can
sometimes forget one of the important basics of coaching at this, and all
levels: making meaningful connections!

  1. Make a one-to-one verbal connection with each player at every practice
    and game day. The kids want to know they are seen and that it mattered that they showed up!
  2. Connect to where the individual player is, emotionally, mentally and
    physically. There can be wide range of abilities at the recreation level: try to
    find a way to simplify things for the child who isn’t coming in as
    naturally coordinated, or to have empathy for the child who has had a rough
    day, or to create an additional challenge for the player who comes in with
    more soccer experience.
  3. Connect what you work on in practice directly to the games. Remind the
    players about the new skill you introduced earlier that week and tell them
    you are looking for them to try it against that day’s opponent.
  4. Remember to connect with the parents! Introduce yourself to the group
    and individually when you see a new face. Ask the kids to thank their
    parents for getting them to practice and games. Let them know, either in
    person or via email, something positive you saw their child do or something
    that you are encouraging their child to try.

These little efforts can make a big difference in giving the entire team a
fun soccer experience.

View another COACHES CORNER article here.

COACHES CORNER: When you first start coaching

When you first start coaching – be it your initial foray as a parent coach or the beginning of a new season with a new team for a more seasoned recreational coach, figuring out what to cover in a practice can be daunting. This is often especially true after you have seen them in their first competition – the list of “things they need to work on” feels endless. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and its best to go in with a plan.

First, give some thought to the skills you would like to introduce and the topics you would generally like to cover over the span of the season and work from there. Be realistic and age/developmentally appropriate with your expectations and goals.

Pick a theme for the practice. Keep it focused. Don’t worry too much about correcting non-theme related “issues” that come up in that practice (might be no need to address a missed passing opportunity if you are introducing and working on moves to get around a defender)

Incorporate that theme into the progressive stages of your session: warm up, drills, game-type situation. Emphasize throughout. Regardless of the theme – keep it fun and keep them active.

Be over prepared. Occasionally an activity will be a bust and you’ll need to change course. Having extra theme related ideas as part of your plan will prevent you from panicking and (hopefully) the 7 year olds from finding the dandelions more interesting than practice.

Keep building on the themes each week. But repeating an entire practice plan (with tweaks based on what worked and what didn’t) can be a good thing for everyone too!

And finally, whether it be at the beginning of practice as players are arriving (great incentive for kids to arrive on time) or at the end as your final activity, it is always a good idea to give them an opportunity to just play at each session– scrimmaging with no restrictions and little to no coaching!

View another COACHES CORNER article here.

COACHES CORNER: The Playground is the Ultimate Soccer Field for Play

COACHES CORNER: The Playground is the Ultimate Soccer Field for Free (and Fun!) Play

When my two boys are asked what their favorite part of their school day was, the answer is inevitably “gym” or “recess.” I know nobody wants to think of the end of summer quite yet, and especially not a return to school, but I also know my kids are already excited about getting to again hang with their extended friend group all at once – something that only happens during recess.

In the case of my eldest son, recess also proved to be a useful soccer recruiting tool. He and his friends play before lunch every single day, even outside in the winter months. This group has grown steadily over the years, which has in turn also grown not only a love of the game amongst the other students, but actual players that went on to join the local competitive club.

As a parent who always emphasizes the importance of academic learning, I have learned to see great value in the lessons my kids are picking up on the playground when they just get to figure out how to get organized in their own way, on their own. Of course it doesn’t hurt that they have also become ambassadors for a sport I adore. And while there’s no doubt it’s great to hear about those magical moments of discovery in the classroom, I also must admit that I look forward to hearing them recount the often funny and heroic moments from their recess free play field.

So, really…back to school can be back to fun? It certainly can be, if we remember to just let them play!

View another COACHES CORNER article here.