More Soccer Stuff

September 21st, 2005

Isaiah’s soccer game went a little better last weekend. They still lost, but his attitude was vastly improved over the first game and it seemed like they were figuring out more of what they were supposed to be doing. But I think his soccer team is going to turn out to be the same kind of team his t-ball team was.

His t-ball coach was great. He had coached for years, but this was the first time he had worked with kids as young as those on Isaiah’s team. He worked hard ingraining fundamentals and building basic skills. He wanted the kids to have fun, but he was also serious about them learning the sport. I felt this was very good for Isaiah, though it took a while for him to get his head around it. He’s used to unstructured free-play time for most of his non-school hours so the discipline and focus was beneficial. Unfortunately, he broke his wrist just as these paramaters were beginning to have an impact on him so the effect was not as great as I had hoped, although there was some.

It was very disappointing to me, though, to see his team who was learning properly and striving (to varying degrees from kid to kid and week to week) to master a new skill set get plastered fairly regularly by the team that was taught to “hit’em outta the park”. Of course, in our instant gratification society it is frequently the lot of those who want to do things the right way to eat the dust of the short-cutters, but I think its pretty crummy of those kinds of coaches to teach little kids to “play for power” before they’ve developed a firm foundation to build on.

The soccer situation appears to be a little different. It’s obvious that at six years old Isaiah is already far behind the curve of many of the kids that fill the park on Saturdays. It seems like most of them even in the first grade level teams have been playing for years. I hear coaches shouting “Clear the goal! Clear the Goal! Defense– Center!” and wonder how the kids out there who were in kindergarten last year can register barked commands as they run and control the ball at the same time. In saying this I realize I have never been and will probaly never be an athlete of any sort unless Frito-Lay decides to sponsor a professional chip-eating league, but it really seems to me that in kids sports the enjoyment factor gets squeezed out at the expense of competition.

Isaiah’s soccer coach, as his t-ball coach was, is a first timer. His coaching style is a little different, though. The t-ball coach was used to older kids who he could push harder and who were more focussed, therefore he was working on being patient and understanding with the younger kids on Isaiah’s team. I think he did a very good job of it and the kids learned a lot and had fun even if they didn’t win many games. I don’t think Isaiah’s soccer coach has much experience in dealing with groups of kids of any age.

I could tell in the first few minutes of the first night of practice that Isaiah was probably not going to be on a winning soccer team. The coach my have soccer skills, I don’t know how to judge that and I haven’t talked with him much other than about game times and the like, but he does not exhibit the forceful personality required to orchestrate the unbridled chaos of fifteen to twenty first graders.

“OK, boys… Boys! Come over here everybody… Boys. Hey, it’s time to pay attention now…”

Sorry, man. That isn’t going to cut it. I realize they are little kids and as such they are going to be a bit wild, but that is all the more reason to take the bull by the horns right off the bat. Instill authority in them and tell them how it’s going to be, or it’s going to be a disorganized muddle.

I haven’t been going to the practices because Isaiah prefers me not to since I think he gets tired of me shouting from fifty feet away for him to quit fooling around and pay attention to the coach. But judging from the practices I went to and the two games we’ve had so far, I think we may be getting the muddle.

Everybody who knows me knows I’m just not a “sports guy” but I think maybe I could do a better job of coaching if not a better job of coaching soccer. I refuse to be hard on the guy, though. I give him credit for taking the time to at least hang out with the kids and I admit I should be out in the back yard working with Isaiah on some skills. So I think I’m just going to continue not going to practices and gently but pointedly encouraging Isaiah to keep a good attitude and do his best.

In the blessed air conditioning in the van Saturday after the game Isaiah asked “D’you know what’s the most important part of soccer?”

“No, what is it, Son?”

“Having fun!”

Maybe this coach is doing a better job than I thought…