November 5th, 2012 | Uncategorized
I have successfully avoided my first potential coaching disaster. Last week, my post discussed how coaching a group of enthusiastic young soccer players is nothing short of a truly magical experience. This week’s story acknowledges a lesser-known truth of such experiences. Yesterday, I was handed the reins over a large group of 5 and 6 year old munchkins. And, when I say “handed the reins,” I mean that it was me, and only me, that was in charge of keeping a group of Tasmanian devils occupied for the next hour and a half. In these circumstances, I’ve found that it’s often wise to forget trying to teach any soccer. 5 and 6 year olds rarely respond well to formalized instruction on a soccer field. Instead, the goal was to get out with all my limbs attached. And, of course, to have fun. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of ever coaching this age group, allow me to paint a picture. Based on previous coaching experience (although, maybe it’s only in America), I’ve come to expect these scenarios to unfold in one of two ways.
A) The session goes very smoothly, and a careful balance of instruction and fun/laughter allows a coach to overcome 5-second attention spans and sugar-induced explosions of hyperactivity, all while managing to tie shoes, answer questions like “why do you talk funny?” and stop the flow of tears after a bruised knee. Charlie Sheen would even call that “winning”.
B) From the first whistle, the session spirals madly out of control, as a seemingly innocent group of 5-year-old angels immediately transform into human tornados of chaos, who apparently want nothing more than to see their coach voluntarily commit himself to a mental asylum following the practice. This outcome often carries the additional disastrous combination of overly aggressive behavior, injuries, and a coach’s Kryptonite: tears.
Needless to say, I was both excited and nervous to find out if I could, at the very least, hold their attention for 10 minutes. After 20 minutes of dribbling games, including some of my personal favorites like “Knockout” and “Sharks and Minnows”, I knew I was in the clear…I had the kids hooked – they were focused, attentive, and most importantly, giggling hysterically at my childish sense of humor, and thoroughly enjoying themselves. I even had some parents approach me to say “thank you” after the session ended!
Whether or not I can attribute it to a delayed and mild Halloween sugar crash, or the proverbial “luck of the Irish,” the session was perfect. Well…almost perfect. I did have one particular player, “Jack”, who presented a bit of a problem. It just so happens that “Jack” was fond of making tackles that would even make the infamous Paul Scholes proud: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vIKT3WMAQU.
I don’t think my legs would’ve survived this kid’s poorly timed defensive efforts, so I have no idea how the other players came out largely unscathed. However, my finest hour thus far, as a coach, was watching “Jack” apologize and help another player up following the third incident, after I had pulled him aside and talked about the value of being a little less aggressive. Made me smile.
On another note, Sarah and I had a fantastic time up in Clonmel last week. It was wonderful getting to see the other scholars (nice to meet you Caroline), and catch up with the Maguire family (missed you Deirdre). However, all my gratitude needs to be extended to Liam and others in Clonmel who showed such incredible hospitality
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