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Cornelius News

Thoughts on coaching kids’ soccer after 8 years

MODERN DAD | By Jon Show

After 18 seasons I’m officially announcing my retirement as a youth soccer coach. By my math I’ve coached my kids and other people’s kids in nearly 300 soccer games and practices over the last eight years.

I know this announcement won’t be met with much fanfare. There won’t be a press conference. Former players won’t be reaching out to thank me for having a profound influence on their lives.

My announcement will be met with silence. Which I’m OK with, given the season I’m currently finishing with my most recent group of 9-year-old girls. They talk. A lot.

I know I’m not the most amazing soccer coach on the planet. Despite the fact that I’ve played my entire life, I honestly have no idea if any of the kids I’ve coached have learned anything about soccer.

We do cartwheels to warm up and the sharks and minnows game comprises a significant portion of our practices. I teach them to grab their backs and make old man grunts when they come out of stretches.

Time to go

We’re playing without a team name this spring. Four seasons ago we were the Unicorns. Then the Dolphins. Then the Unicorn Dolphins.

Twelve girls wanted five different names and no one wanted to cave so I broke the huddle and we played as our assigned name: North Meck Tan.

North Meck Tan. That’s when I knew it was time to go. I couldn’t even rally them around a team name.

I’ve loved coaching kids in soccer, especially my own.

There was the time Future Man scored his first goal at the age of maybe 6, and then sprinted the full length of the field to hug me. I don’t remember if we won or lost any games that season but I remember that moment.

I don’t remember the wins and loses with the Blonde Bomber, either, but I’ll remember this story about her and wins and losses.

At the end of each season I go around the circle and ask all of the kids to share their favorite memory. One by one they each pick out achievements like goals scored or saved.

Last season my daughter was the last one to go. When it was her turn she slowly eyeballed each of her teammates around the circle, then turned to look at me, and in the most incredulous voice I have ever heard from a child said:

“Uh, winning?”

She warms my soul. Here’s another one for you.

Earlier this season two of my players subbed out of a game and told me my daughter had yelled the “s word” on the field, twice. I asked her about it after the game. She shrugged and said, “What was I supposed to do? Some girl stomped on my foot on purpose.”

In the moment I forgot I was her father or coach – or even an adult. I kind of saw her point. We just got in the car and went to get junk food at the gas station.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows with my kids.

There was the season Future Man stopped playing soccer – not because I rode him about how he played – but because I just don’t think he wanted to be told what to do at home and on the soccer field by his dad.

I quit coaching his team and he came back the next season and played for someone else’s dad and didn’t miss a beat.

Misses and not so much

There is a lot I won’t miss about coaching.

I won’t miss parents emailing me every week asking about jersey colors because they can’t be bothered to look at the schedule.

I won’t miss parents complaining about their kid only playing offense or defense in a game because I accidentally lost track of who had played what positions.

I won’t miss some of the other coaches, many of whom load teams with older kids and then stand on the field telling them where to go and what to do the entire game – like some dystopian real life Xbox.

I definitely won’t miss trying to skate the line between coaching and disciplining. My kids took an unfair brunt of the discipline for screwing around or not listening because I was hesitant to discipline an unruly kid while the parent watched from the sidelines.

There’s a lot I will miss, in addition to coaching my own kids.

I’ll miss that one kid every season who showed up for the first practice looking meek and lost, and by game three was a Tasmanian devil. I loved that kid.

I’ll miss that one kid every season who loved playing but wasn’t the most gifted athlete. That kid always seemed to score their first goal on the last game of the season and it was like he or she won the World Cup.

I’ll miss the parents who made a point of coming over and saying thanks after practices and games.

I’ll also miss walking back to the car with my kids after games. Not once did I ever criticize them – we only talked about the things like goals scored or saved.

In lieu of a press conference, and with two games remaining in the season, I summoned the Blonde Bomber to the kitchen and told her that this would be my last season coaching soccer. The next day she went out and played the best game she’s played all season.

Sometimes you just gotta know when it’s time to go.

Jon Show lives in Robbins Park with his wife, who he calls “The Mother of Dragons.” Their 10-year-old son is “Future Man” and their 7-year-old daughter is “The Blonde Bomber.” Their dog is actually named Lightning.