Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Think I Like This One

Having a bunch of kids, I've been around more than my fair share of rec league sports coaches.  They've ranged from the brilliant positive one who shouted, "Way to be open for the pass!" to my timid little soccer player who, as I'm sure the coach knew, was merely trying to hide from the surging horde on the field to the awful one who had a two hour first practice in a cold wind for 8 year old baseball players and abandoned my son in right field for 119 of the 120 minute torture.  In the remaining minute, he got beaned by the pitcher.  We didn't return.

With some curiosity and no small amount of trepidation, I opened the email from the latest coach.  Even before opening, I was a bit put off by the fact that it was sent as urgent, showing up with a red exclamation mark denoting its importance.  Whatever 5th grade soccer is, it's not urgent.

Color coded charts of practices and games filled the inside.  The coach had taken the liberty of assigning our snack and beverage duties.  Practice would be twice a week--I thought this was rec league?--with an optional third practice this week since the opening game is just 10 days away!  I'm a bit of a control freak myself and while it just makes good sense when I do it, I find it quite annoying in others.  Was this another win at all costs coach trying to find the athletic glory that escaped him as a youth?

Nonetheless, I complied with the request to reply to let the coach know I had received the email.  When a second email arrived with a google maps insert and our practice field circled within it, I wondered what I was thinking in even signing the kid up for soccer.  I have five kids.  Count 'em, FIVE.  I can barely reply to my own thoughts acknowledging my own plans, let alone have the wherewithal to keep up with a coach who already wrote he has a tendency to "over-communicate."

Within four minutes of arriving at the field, I did a 180 in my assessment.  The coach and his assistant coach were both there, a few minutes early.  They started on time.  Can I get an amen chorus for the leaders who start on time?  We train others how to behave and the message here was unambiguous.  Latecomers were integrated into the drill with friendliness and ease.  I'd put money on the likelihood of fewer tardy players next practice.

Within 10 minutes, I began to think this coach might work out fine.  Even from the playground where I was entertaining my youngers, I could easily see that the drills were well-planned, purposeful and fun.

At the half way point, when he gathered the kids to talk to them during a water break, I began to admire him.  Of course it makes sense to run the boys ragged for a while and then sit them down to explain things while they are good and tired.  You'd be surprised how many coaches take a gaggle of wiggly little boys raring to run on a field and sit them down for an introductory talk.

At the parent meeting after practice, my buddy Coach Dan sealed the deal in my mind.  I am an official fan.  First off, he said that while it's rec league, the kids keep score and are happier when they win.  I deplore the everyone receives a trophy mentality, so I appreciated his realism.  He wants them to win too, but not at any cost.  Kids would get the same amount of playing time regardless of skill level.  I like the balance he expressed.  Secondly, he reminded the kids to think of a team name.  Team name?  We'd always been Team 2 or Team 4 in previous sessions.  Finally, he pointed out that at this age, the kids sometimes get adult refs and sometimes get teen refs.  He explained that these teens are taking on refereeing as their first job, that they are learning to ref just like the kids on the team are learning to play.  He said he's come to expect that there will be at least one totally wrong, game changing call per game and that's the way it is, so be kind to the teen refs.  He sent all the kids on their way with a rousing team yell.

Remember my five, count 'em, FIVE kids?  Two of them are first year refs in this league.  I love Coach Dan.