What Happened To The Soccer Coach We Liked?

“My team sucks.”

That’s what my 6-year old, Brayden, said Monday when we greeted him after his team’s 2-0 loss in the championship game of a soccer tournament.

I could hardly believe my ears.

First of all, he should know that we don’t talk like that in our house. Second, I had no idea where a statement like that came from. I immediately took a knee to get down to Brayden’s level and asked him why he would say something like that.

“Dad, we didn’t even score one goal.” he replied.

“That doesn’t matter Brayden.” I said. “You were hustling your butt off out there. You tried your best, right?”

“Yes. But some of the other kids were just standing around, not trying at all.” Brayden said.

“That doesn’t matter. They’re still your teammates and you don’t talk bad about your teammates.” I told him.

In Brayden’s defense, there were a few kids on his team who weren’t really into the game. They stood around and just let the other team go by them. Or they were out of position, resulting in a wide open shot and goal for the other team. But that’s no excuse for his sudden bad attitude.

His negative statements were so out of character. I wanted to talk to him more about what he said and dig deeper into his comments, but with all the other parents and players around, it wasn’t the time or place.

A Trophy For A Team That Doesn’t Suck
After the game, the team that beat Brayden’s team received a big, first place team trophy. Each player on the team also received an individual trophy. For taking second place, Brayden’s team received a big team trophy, but no individual trophies.

This actually worked out well. Brayden was excited that his team still won a trophy. After I took a photo of him holding the trophy I talked to him for a few seconds.

“Who won this trophy Bray?” I asked.

“My team.” Brayden said.

“That’s right. Your team did. You guys worked together and earned this trophy. Would you have earned this if you were a bad team? Or if you guys stunk?”  I followed up.

“No.” Brayden replied.

“OK then. I don’t ever want to hear you say something like that about one of your teams again. OK?” I said.

“OK.” Brayden answered.

Wired To Compete
Brayden is a competitive kid by nature. I love that about him. I’d much rather have to reel him in on occasion than try to constantly motivate him to do his best.

But what he said yesterday, just wasn’t like him. He’s always up beat. Even after a loss. There was something else going on. Something else contributed to his sudden negative outlook on the game he just played.

A Revealing Talk
Monday night at bedtime, I had a chance to talk to Brayden about his comments after the game. When I asked him why he said his team sucked, he gave an extremely revealing answer.

He said, “Because we didn’t play good.”

“Brayden, you guys played awesome. Why would you think that you didn’t play good?” I asked.

“Because. Coach went like this (he clapped his hands together and threw them up in the air, in an angry fashion). And he said the ‘D’ word when we didn’t score and when the other team scored.”

I didn’t really have an answer for that one. So I just said, “Well, those were bad choices by coach. He shouldn’t have done those things. But no matter how your coaches, or teammates behave, I want you to always have a good attitude. OK? It’s OK to want to win your games. There’s nothing wrong with that. But you know what? You’re not going to win every game you play. And when you don’t win, you can’t have a bad attitude about losing.  The Cardinals didn’t win every game they played last year. But they were still the World Series Champs, right?”

I won’t bore you with the rest of our talk. It was your typical, win with class, lose with class sports chat. “There’s nothing wrong with losing, as long as you lose trying your best.” You know, that kind of stuff.

You’re Not Here To Have Fun?
I’m really bothered by what Brayden said about his coach though. This is Brayden’s third season playing for him. In previous seasons, coach has always preached the importance of fun. He’s always treated every player with equal respect, regardless of the talent or interest level. That’s why we’ve always liked him. He always kept things in perspective. I mean, you know, we’re not talking about a select team of older kids here. It’s a first grade team in a catholic school league.

In the last few weeks though, there’s been something different about coach. I don’t know if it has been this preseason tournament that we just wrapped up or what. But all of a sudden, he seems focused on winning. He’s also had a shorter temper with the boys at practices. Yelling a lot more.

My wife took Brayden to his last practice and she was really bothered by what she saw and heard. She said that at one point he got upset and said, “I’m not here to have fun!”

She said she couldn’t hear the exact context of why he said that, but that statement by itself is cause for concern. If you’re not coaching first grade boys soccer to have fun, then why the heck are you doing it?

And for the record, Kim alerted this practice incident to me last week, before this weekend’s games.

During the championship game coach also seemed to have a short temper. He was yelling at kids for being out of position and not coming back to help on defense. He yelled at some of the kids who didn’t go after the ball. (I’m not talking about yelling, as in he had to so they could hear him. This was yelling like he was angry and frustrated with the boys.)

Then, he actually benched a couple kids in the second half. Seriously. Two of our players hardly played at all in the second half. That’s just not right. Not at this age and at this level. Like I said, we’re not talking about a select team here.

My Game Plan 
Since this stuff seemed so out of character for coach, I’m willing to cut him some slack. Maybe he just got a little too caught up in the competition of the tournament setting. I don’t know. But I’m really hoping that coach is back to his old self now that the tournament is over. If not, I’m definitely going to talk with him and voice our concerns. I really think  it would impact him if I told him how Brayden felt about the last game as a result of his actions on the field.

Brayden is like the engine that makes his team go. He’s a stopper on defense and he generates the majority of our scoring chances. He goes nonstop. So if Brayden was feeling that negatively about his and the team’s performance, then what must his teammates have thought and felt?

I really hope that I don’t have to have a talk with coach. But if this continues into this week’s practice, I won’t have a choice.

UPDATE: I’m pleased to report that after this tournament, coach returned to his normal fun-loving self. There were a couple of slip ups the rest of the season, but nothing like the tournament behavior. He’s a good guy and I was happy to have him back! 

Have you ever dealt with a similar situation? Did you have a talk with the coach? Let me know how the situation played out in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.

-Kevin

The Most Important Soccer Skill For Kids To Develop

After having three boys who began playing soccer at the age of four, I’ve notice one main skill that the best players on the field seem to have. I believe it to be the most important soccer skill for kids to develop.

The development of this singular soccer skill can potentially double the number of goals and great passes your young soccer player will have this season. (By young, I’m mainly talking about kids ages 4-7.)

The cool thing is, this simple skill is easy to teach. But it takes a lot of repetition to develop.

What is it?

The Skill of Kicking Equally With BOTH Feet
It’s far from rocket science, I know. But this skill will make your child’s accomplishments on the soccer field take off! It’s simply the most important soccer skill for kids to develop.

What My Experience and Observations Have Taught Me 
From my years of experience watching and teaching my own three boys, I’ve notice one significant difference in the top scoring players on a team. They have nearly equal ball handling and shooting skills with both feet.

Why Is This So Important? 
When your child can use both feet equally, he’s always ready to shoot or pass. I can’t tell you how many times a game I see kids with a wide open shot miss their chance to bury it in the back of the net because the ball came to their weak side.

There are three ways this type of play usually goes down:

  1. The player has to stop or settle the ball and attempt to get his body turned and in position to kick it with his strong foot. This gives the defenders time to move in and take away the great scoring chance.
  2. The player tries to kick the ball with his weak foot, but since it is his weak foot, the ball rolls slowly toward the goal and the goalie easily pounces on it.
  3. The player tries to kick it with his strong foot, but since his body is better aligned to kick it with the opposite foot, he either fans on the ball completely or kicks it wide of the goal.
Not Just For Goal Scoring
Developing both feet isn’t just about scoring goals. It comes into play every time your child has possession of the ball.
  • It helps him make a move to his left or to his right to go around a defender.
  • It helps him dribble faster and more efficiently without breaking stride to adjust and advance the ball with only one foot.
  • It helps him make a quick pass to an open player on either side of his body.
  • It helps him clear the ball up the sideline on defense instead of just kicking it out-of-bounds.

Start Developing Both Feet Early
The earlier you help your child develop skills with both feet, the better. If he learns it during his first year of playing, he’ll be less likely to develop a “strong” foot. A foot he relies on and has more confidence in. He’ll have equal confidence in both feet.

How To Teach The Most Important Soccer Skill
The coolest thing about this skill is that teaching it is extremely simple. And most kids understand the concept pretty quickly.

Start by kicking the ball back and forth to your child. (We call this game “kickback”.) Each time you kick it to him, alternate which side of his body you kick it to. Then call out which foot he should use as you kick it. “Right foot.” “Left foot.” (You should alternate which foot you use each time you kick it to him as well. This will help give him visual reference of the concept.)

Then you can play a game of “long kickback” to help him build strength in his legs.

You can move to passing games using both feet next. Then dribbling games.

If your child already has a dominate foot, no big deal. Just play these games and tell him to use only his weak foot. But don’t call it his “weak foot.” No need to put that thought in his head. ;>) Make up some cool name for a game that uses the foot you want him to develop. Something like, “Left Foot Launcher.”

Praise The Development 
Once your child starts to use his former weak foot, without being reminded, praise the heck out of him. I’m constantly going out of my way to yell, “Great left foot buddy!” Now my 5 and 6-year old boys make a point to tell me when they score using their left foot. They think it’s a pretty big deal.

So, if you have one or more little soccer players on your family roster, give these tips a try and kick start their development!

Do You Agree? 
If you’ve witnessed this same trait among the best young players in your child’s league, let me know in the comments. Or, if you think a different skill is more important for young players to develop, share what it is and why!

Thanks for reading,

-Kevin

P.S. If the expense of youth sports is putting a strain on your household finances, check out my personal blog at www.KevinDuy.com. I share the great side business that has been a game changer for my family. I’m helping other families do the same thing. If that’s something you could use, I’d love to help you earn extra income too.