Hi folks! I just want to tell you something. Please, come a little bit closer, so I will not have to shout. What I am going to tell you is for your eyes only... I am in the right mood for it and I will try to heal my conscience.
About six years ago I was assigned as an emergency replacement coach for U10 and younger. Do you know the situation to be asked to do a job and you try to chicken out of something. A thing I have never been good at and all of the sudden I found myself standing on the pitch, dressed in a soccer jersey, 13 balls in a net under one arm, two photocopies full of preparations, because I would have forgotten all of the things otherwise. By the way, not to forget that fussy swarm of “them”, my players, you call them U9.
My God! I was so excited and proud …. my own team, yippee. We created a team slogan, we bought the newest footwear and tried to carefully structure all of our actions. Training prepared us for our first game. I made them drill deliveries, crosses, headers, penalties and much more. One thing I was absolutely sure of: the losers won´t be us! I ordered myself a soccer whiteboard, because it is necessary to show the bunch how things are moving about. After some days I was able to determine who qualifies as a striker and named him as such. Other acted like rabbits, well, midfielders for sure, and the opposite of them: defenders. It is pure logic. And the fat guy, Paul, he was sent between the posts … and there he should stay for quite some time.
Then shocking news reached us: our local group of the German Soccer Association (DFB) dared to abolish standings. And I should be the idiot to suffer first. I lost my temper ….. impossible! The player's parents were galled and together we were inflamed with rage. Well, where there is a will, there is a way, thanks to the invention of cellular phones …. and soon we sent our results. Clever as we adults were the standings remained ….. great!
The First Match – The Joystick Coach
The day of our first game arrived, an official game. It was no longer allowed to call it a “league match” because you were not permitted earn points. Fantastic, my boys and me. I was standing next to the dressing room and heated them up as good as I could. I explained to them very vividly that we wanted to be at the top of the table, although nobody really was able to see it. Nevertheless, the boys clearly knew what was at stake.
Then, the first whistle, and off they went. We soon came into the lead and what was following was a skirmish, you can call it “war”. I can tell you, it took three days until someone remarked that I seemed to be “sober” again because of my croaky voice. It had been so exhausting to run up and down the sideline. This constant control of the player´s right positioning, this kicking of my own imaginative ball if a striker reaches the opponent´s goal area, was something to drive me crazy.
“Paul, run, Paul shoot, Paul cover your opponent, cut him down, he is a loser, Paul, up, down, to the side, do this, do that!” and “You are slower than your grandmother!” or “Shall I serve you another cup of tea first?”. I developed myself into a joystick-coach. Without my joystick we were at a loss, I had to administer things, due to the fact that it was the coach's responsibility, because the truth and the power were always with me.
Well, the opponent´s coach and the parents who belonged to the other side suffered from the same problems ….. they wanted to win the game too. However, we put everything we had into winning against them: me, the godlike head-coach of my U9s, Mr. Impeccable, the tactic monster … and my patrons, the parents. We became masters of winning, winners. We bellowed bad words towards the referee and the “enemies” (about 1.20m/4ft and 6-8 years old) received their just dessert.
We are Unbearably Good – The Mickey Mouse Cup
What we didn´t notice was that we really destroyed an important amount of our children´s time, the youth of our beloved players, because they didn´t play THEIR soccer but ours, the adult´s version. That is soccer dominated by performance, not by fun. That is soccer aimed to win, not to develop players. It is soccer to reach the top of the standings for the coaches and parents…. and we were playing this way for five years until the kids turned 13. Looking back in anger …. five years too long.
Some of them talked about all-star selections, and a few may have dreamed about the Bundesliga ….. I don´t know.
Unfortunately, we didn´t recognize at that time that we were just chasing the tin cup. I do remember sad eyes following my enraged speeches after lost games or bad half-time scores in horror …… oh, friends, I really was a damned fool.
Finally! – More of My Kind
Eventually I searched for new drills and scanned the internet. I followed some links to the biggest German Soccer Forum and joined the coach's talk there. A revelation: I was able to communicate with more of my kind. “Fantastic!” I said to myself. I am not alone.
© Natalia Vainshtein-Fotolia.com
I was reading a lot, became curious. I had questions to ask and answers to give, I wanted to talk about my experiences. So I joined the forum and launched my first post.
People advised me how to do things right, well-meant advice. New questions popped up. It became clear to me that here different questions were being discussed, thus I gave critical and sometimes harsh answers. Sometimes I even lost control, fired back …. you know what I am talking about. I got hurt, I recovered, I went on. Most of my energy was invested to fight for the return of the standings. Oh, my god, I was a pro activist.
Slowly things began to change because many had given facts to support me, the self-assured super coach, but it no longer remained crystal clear and normal for me. I didn´t want to give in so fast, I was struggling against it ….. but finally convincing arguments, logical explanations, fundamental revelations made me change. I was taken away by a joyful wave, it was as if I was suddenly able to see things differently, to discover really new things. But this development made me sad, too, a bad feeling deep inside crawling up to my brain.
I met coaches who told me how children are being scared by shouting coaches. They told me that you should let the young ones play … just as it pleases them. They made me aware of different training for different age groups. They mentioned aims for special age groups that I should not ignore. For example, U9 should be instructed how to dribble, to score, to prevent goals and to succeed playing 1 versus 1 using feints etc.
Crosses, headers, tactics, condition (especially without balls!), yelling coaches at the side-lines, standings, winning first and such things do not have a place in this. This and more I had to learn and write down. A lot of true stories covering the problems I had to follow, then I came to my personal conclusion to abandon these elements for good.
Funeral Date at the Center Circle
I began to feel ashamed. To be embarrassed about the previous behavior that I had been responsible for, because I had really done everything wrong that could have been wrong, year in and out. This awareness hurt me, triggered headaches and made me lose some more hair.
Talking about this I have to mention a “funeral date”, my joystick died, he was buried under the holy lawn of the center circle by a grieving public. May it rest in peace! Well, sometimes during the matches you kind of see a little bit of its tiny top ….. but I nail it down every time during the match and the referee twinkles in my direction.
After this period of finding a new way and of personal refection I went into an offensive position. I admitted freely to be guilty of misbehavior and mistakes … from now on I was willing to improve everything. I started all over again … Dressed with a short jersey on a huge meadow. Equipped with such knowledge poked in my only pocket (the one of my jersey, there was no other) I dared as a newly appointed coach for the U14 team to organize the soccer divisions according to the abilities of each team two times a year.
I also came to the conclusion that it is not okay to let youth players who are not “strong players” act as subs longer than key players, or not to give the chance to play at all. That is not appropriate for children. There are many reasons not to do it. In a broad sense it touches on areas of abuse, you hurt a child´s soul by doing such things.
Kids are being hurt to win the Mickey Mouse Cup!