Coaching Kids

If you ever want a glimpse at how differently children and adults view the world, coach your kid’s soccer team. Lots of parents sign their young children up for sports for reasonable reasons. They want them to get exercise, learn about teamwork, maybe learn some new skills. There are others that get their child into the sport as soon as possible so they can someday drop their last name and be famous for leading the US into their first World Cup Championship.

During a game, even the most mild mannered, well intentioned parent can sometimes get carried away in the heat of the “competition”. (If you have ever seen an Under 6 soccer game, you understand why “competition” might not be the best word). Wanting what is best for their child, which is usually the wonderful feeling of winning, parents “help” the coach by giving directions to their own child, allowing him to focus on the rest of the team. (If you have ever coached, you understand why “help” is definitely not be the best word).

Almost all of the players, no matter what their fathers think, have a different set of priorities. They want to chat with their friends (no matter which team they are on), run around free in the big grassy space, climb the big white net, try to do whatever their dad is yelling at them to do, try to do whatever their coach is yelling at them to do, and try not to look foolish—not necessarily in that order.

The younger the player, the more disparate the differences. I watched a father fiercely berate his five-year old for examining a puddle while the rest of his team chased the ball around the field.

“That is your goal!” he screamed at his poor boy. “Your job is to kick the ball into that goal, not play in mud puddles!”

At the beginning of the second half, after the teams had switched sides, the obedient child did exactly what his father had told him to do and kicked the ball into what was now his own goal. The father was silent for the rest of the game. It was a beautiful thing.

Here are some other things I have noticed (and said) during soccer games:

“Skipping is not running!”

Have you ever noticed how much boys like to fall down and roll?

“Defense, no cartwheels!”

“You are not Spiderman! Get out of the net!”

“When I said go stand on the line, I meant until the play started. Now you can run.”

Play is suspended on account of an airplane flying overhead and distracting every player on both teams.

I have never seen a six-year old cry because her team lost. I have seen five-year olds celebrate because somebody scored—even when it’s against their team.

No matter how crazy we adults get about sports, if we pay attention to our children, we can never forget that it really is just a game.

©2008, Mark Phillips

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 Women, it's true, make human beings, but only men can make men. - Margaret Mead

Mark Phillips is a Stay-At-Home-Dad and freelance writer. Along with raising his four children, he is developing a franchise called “The Vacuum IS a Power Tool.” It is designed to help SAHDs maintain that which makes us men, instead of hairy Mom-substitutes. He earned a B.S. in Communication/Theatre Arts and teaching certificates in English, public speaking, and psychology from Eastern Michigan University. After six years as a high school English teacher and Director of Dramatic Arts at Powers Catholic High School in Flint, Michigan, he changed careers and became a Stay-At-Home-Dad. or E-Mail

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