Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We've Moved!

This blog has moved to www.coreereuter.com


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Good Luck, CCWS!

I was thrilled when Ashley called me last night to let me know that they had won the CSAC semi-final in penalty kicks to advance the Centenary College Women’s Soccer Team to the final on Saturday. I was less than thrilled that I won’t be able to go to the game,  but I will most definitely be thinking about them and keeping my fingers crossed for a good result.

It’s a little funny how often life comes around full circle. Three years ago, I was still on that field, still in college, still trying to figure out where I would go and what I would do, and today, I’m still trying to figure that out. Three years later I’m still as lost and confused and wandering a bit aimlessly through life, but just like three years ago, I have the game to keep things in perspective. So many times I look back on those moments in my life, the moments I proudly wore that Centenary jersey, the moments that have molded and defined me in ways that I still don’t fully understand. I look at the moments with a smile, sure, but now even the disappointing ones I can reflect on with fondness instead of pain.

Three years ago, I sat on the sidelines while my team fought tooth and nail for a league championship title. Even though I didn’t play a single minute in that game (something that took me a long time to understand and accept), I still felt every foul, every missed shot, every bit of anxiety and nerves and frustration as the game ended without us on top. But today, I remember something that Michelle Berkey told me. She told me to stop and take a deep breath, take a good look around, really listen to the national anthem, and be proud of the fact that we got there. How many times in your life will you stand with your teammates in the middle of the field, listening to the song of your country, and know, without a doubt, that you wouldn’t want to share that moment with anyone else?

That, in it’s simplicity, is what playing at Centenary meant to me. It didn’t matter, in the end, that I didn’t play the last three games of my senior year. It didn’t matter that we lost those final games, what did matter, is that we played them. We played the game. We played at a level that some of us, including me, never dreamed of until Kevin Davies reached out and said, “Come to Centenary, play for me, we’ll do something great”. Like all things, it took a leap of faith, a giant, head first dive into the unknown, and when I finally surface on the other side, being a part of it meant more than any record, accolade or recognition ever could.

Being part of a team, hearing your name announced as you run up the center line, listening to the anthem, gathering in the huddle and quietly swearing at the other team to pump each other up. The handshakes. The smiles. The blood and sweat and tears. The knowledge that every single person sharing that uniform with you has your back, no matter what — those are the feelings and the moments you will remember. That is what will stay with you, long after the final whistle has blown on your college career.

To all of the Centenary girls, I wish you the best of luck on Saturday. Leave your heart on the field. Leave nothing to chance. Support each other, carry each other, and fuck shit up. I know you’re not allowed to FSU on the pitch anymore, but damnit, FSU! No matter what happens on that field, you all should be proud that you wear that jersey, and you got this far. So many of us don’t get that chance. Take a deep breath before the game, take a good look around, and soak it all up. You earned it, you deserve to be there, now go and bring home that championship.

Oh, and Ashley … you have no idea how proud I am. Three years ago I was proud of you, and today, even more so. I know I didn’t make you the brilliant goalkeeper you are, as much as we joke about it, but I hope you know that you made my senior year the best year of soccer I ever had. I’ll always be your biggest fan, and you can bet that I’ll be giving you the biggest MH in my head right before the game. Tear shit up, Prod.

Monday, November 1, 2010


I couldn't wait for the game to end yesterday. As the minutes ticked down to seconds, I would get a rush of nervous butterflies each time the ball threatened our goal, but my girls dug in and clawed their way, tooth and nail, to their first victory of the season.

I knew they were capable of winning. I knew they had the talent, the skills, and the ability to come out on top, but to finally see it after losing so many games was like someone handing you a key to a brand new corvette and telling you to go for a spin. It was a great feeling.

My goalscorer was one of my best players, a bright, bubbly girl who has been a terror on defense from the very beginning. I should have put her up front sooner, but I needed her back there. I'm glad I took a chance to put her up top, and you can bet that's where she'll be at the beginning of our last game.

There's been a lot of losses, but there's been a lot of positives, too. These girls have come so, so far since the beginning of the season, and I really think that with the right training this winter, they'll take these teams by storm next spring.

It'll be nice to have an easier schedule this winter so I can work on me a bit. NaNoWriMo starts today and I'm bound and determined to get my second novel done. I'm not sure the first one even counts, though. It's pretty bad. It is 53,000+ words, though, so I guess it's a start. I already like this one better.

Busy work week again. Soccer almost every day this week, again. But I love it. Being on the field is keeping me sane, and in this world, that has to count for something.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Official Frustrations

I hate losing. I really do. Not that I've ever believed that winning is the only way to happiness, but it'd be nice to win occasionally. The girls played a tough, hard fought game on Sunday against a team that was twice as big as my biggest girl.


This team brought a bazooka to a knife fight.

I wouldn't have been too bothered by the whole thing except for the fact that the referee was young and inexperienced and refused to blow his whistle. See that little plastic thing in your hand? Use it. Please.

Now, any of you that know me know I encourage and appreciate a good, tough, physical match ... as long as it's fair. Not all of the fouls that were committed on the field were dirty, but there were certainly some elbows in the back, shoves from behind, and pretty blatant tripping. I'm all for letting play go on, but to me anything from behind is careless and dangerous and should be an immediate call.

I told one of my girls that if she was going to get pushed around and the ref wasn't going to call it, that she should push back. The referee didn't like that too much. I kept my mouth shut after that. Still, the girl who I said that to ended up scoring a great goal towards the end of the game, and I was THRILLED for her since she's one of the players who has really improved in leaps and bounds since the beginning of the season.

After the game was over one of the girls said 'I'm not shaking the referee's hand'. That was not okay. I told her that she would shake the referee's hand and I never wanted to hear her say anything like that ever again. I made her cry. Sorry, kiddo, but you deserved getting that lecture. The parent agreed with me, so all remained well in my camp.

Of course, the next morning I got an e-mail from goal-scorers dad saying that his kid was angry about the other team, and was very sore with lots of bruises. The uber competitive side of me says "IF YOU'RE NOT BLEEDING, BRUISED AND EXHAUSTED AFTER THE GAME YOU AREN'T PLAYING HARD ENOUGH!" But then I remember these girls are only 11. I take a deep breath.

The thing that bothered me was that the parent in question said "I told her to run to the referee and stand in his face to complain about it next time she is elbowed or kicked from behind.  I fear she is only going to hold back for so long before she deliberately hurts the other girls back."

Umm.. please do not tell your child to stand in the referee's face and complain. That is only reaching them that it's okay to disrespect officials and people in charge. Referees are not perfect, either. 
All of these girls are good players and can hold their own on the field, but they have to learn that if you're getting pushed around you have to drop your shoulder and push back. I'm not talking about committing deliberate fouls, I'm talking about stepping up to the intensity of the game you are playing.  That team played tough, physical soccer, something that our girls haven't seen yet. There was definitely a lesson to be learned about how physical these girls need to be in order to be competitive.  I want my players to play with passion, but I also expect them to be classy, fair and respectful of their teammates, coaches, officials and their opponents. 

It was a bit of a disappointing game for me, and despite the positive things I've seen in the girls during our time together, it's hard not to get discouraged.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Time, Time, Time

Another week of soccer has gone by, and while nothing hugely exciting happened on the pitch, I've been trying to organize the next stage in  my coaching education.

I never realized the extraordinary amount of time I would have to dedicate to soccer coaching. Sure, I knew it would take up my afternoons and weekends, but I did not put continuing education on my calendar, something that Loudoun Soccer Club is adamant about. Now, I have NO problem with this whatsoever.. I think it's a very good sign of the passion for the sport in the club, and their desire to be a top club in Virginia. I fully support and appreciate their push for their coaches to take advantage of coaching opportunities, such as the two I have (potentially) coming up on my calendar.

The hard part for me has been organizing my other life, the small portion of my time that I try to dedicate to my personal mental and physical well-being.  Let's face it, we all need a day off once in a while, and sometimes it's hard to even find a half-day to relax during this time of year. We're approaching the end of the season, sure, but we're still in high gear, and will be until our last game on Nov. 7 (which happens to be my birthday). It doesn't look like we'll fit in a post season tournament since I need to do a clinic on the same weekend, but I think the girls will benefit more from using that money to rent indoor space this winter to continue improving their skills.

Still, even looking back on the crazy journey that coaching these girls has been, I wouldn't change it. Sure, it's taken away riding, taken away sleeping in on weekends, taking away my weekday evenings, but it's giving me a hell of a lot more than it's taken away, and for that I can't complain in the slightest.

I've learned some lessons, too, and come face to face with some realities of adulthood. I think, most importantly, I've finally learned to say, 'no, I just don't have time'. While sometimes this is frustrating for me, it's also allowed me to step back and evaluate what's important enough to make time for, and what I can let sit on the back burner for a while. Riding, for example, has become something I do when I have the time, and I enjoy it that much  more. It doesn't feel like a 'I have to go to the barn' anymore. It feels like fun, and it's nice to know that even if I don't get in the saddle for weeks, I still have the skills to ride whenever I want. They can be a little rusty, but it's easy enough to remember, and someday when I do change my focus back to horses, I know that the transition won't be too difficult.

Coaching has also made me realize that if I'm going to do something, I want to do it well, commit to it 100%, and be the best at it. I've often said that doing so many things as a kid certainly made me well rounded, but I never excelled at anything in particular. I was a good soccer player, a good dancer, a good rider, but I was never GREAT because my energy and dedication were pulled in so many different directions. Now that I can focus on one or two things instead of five or seven, I feel that if I want to be a great soccer coach, I can be, and maybe someday I will be able to be a great rider, too.

And while I've learned this lesson in my adulthood, I wouldn't push that knowledge on any of the girls that I coach. Doing so many things as a kid might not have made me great at anything in particular, but it made me much more enthusiastic and happy to participate in all of those things. Doing all those activities kept me from burning out of any one thing in particular, which is perhaps why, after 17 years, my love for the sport has only grown. Sure, there's been times in my life when I felt like throwing away my soccer cleats, but I think that could be said for everyone. We all reach a breaking point, it's just a matter of how you chose to fix yourself that determines where you will go.

I'm looking forward to the last three games of our season, and also looking forward to expanding my knowledge and growing as a coach. This game has so much to offer, and as long as I can continue to find the time to pursue it, I will pursue it with everything I've got.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chugging Along

It's been a while since I've posted, mostly because it's been awhile since I've done anything soccer related. But, we're back in the swing of things now.

I got back from my work trip and immediately got back into a full week of soccer. The girls practiced well on Tuesday, I had keeper training on Wednesday, and practice was canceled, but I had a game on Thursday. We lost, it was just.. the communication was pretty off. Oh well.

Saturday we had to hike out to Maryland for our game, and even though we only had one sub, the girls played great! We even scored a goal, which was very exciting. If we would have had more subs we very likely could have won that game.

Sunday, however, was a mess. Two of my girls weren't able to come due to injury and sickness, and I had to forfeit. It sucked.

But, I'll stick by my decision, because I really believe it was the right one. Playing a man down would not have done a thing for their confidence.

I had a game yesterday that pretty much sucked.

Stu offered me an assistant coaching position with his team. I'm not sure what I want to do. If I do Loudoun and Stu's team, I will be going seven days a week.

We'll see what happens.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Ups And Downs

There's no doubt that life is like a roller coaster ride. Sometimes you're higher than high, sometimes you can't get out of the low spots, and most of the time we all float around somewhere in the middle. Soccer is usually one of the high points.

The past ten days have shown me both ends of the spectrum.

After our first weekend of games, I heard some things I didn't really like from our team manager. Evidently, some girls on the bench were talking smack about some girls on the field. This is not cool with me, at all, so on Tuesday they all received a stern lecture about positivity, team work, and the fact that if I hear it again they'll run the entire practice. The message must have hit home, since we heard nothing during our next two games. Practice that Thursday was also good, and it was really cool watching some of the girls suddenly understand the idea of crossing the ball. It was similar to how I taught Stu's keeper how to fix her goal kicks. The girls were all under the impression that it takes a huge run up in order to send the ball long, but I showed them how to create a good cross with just one step. And hey, it worked!

I was nervous about our weekend games again, but Saturday saw the girl's best performance yet! They really, really played together well. We ended up tying the game 0-0, which was a huge accomplishment! I was so, so, so thrilled with the girls on Saturday. The keeper I picked up played brilliantly, and I awarded her 'woman of the match' for her shut out.

And then came Sunday.

We were playing a team we've played twice already, both loses, but good, close matches. I don't know if the girls were just out of gas, if I wasn't coaching them right, or what, but they tanked. We lost 5-0. The good side of it was I learned some more things about where certain girls should go, and the coach of the other team came over and told me that it should have been a much closer game, but still, it was really disappointing.

I think I've decided to split time with the keepers, even though the one girl is superb, I think she gets rattled a bit. It's her first experience on a travel soccer team, so I don't want her to be overwhelmed. I also think that I'm going to move one of my defenders up front. I put her in up top at the end of the game on Sunday and she had some really good chances.

I've been getting some complaints from parents, which is harder on me than I admit sometimes. I don't like complaints. I like peace and sunshine and butterflies. I'm finding, though, that it's impossible to make everyone happy, and that I just have to stay true to myself. 

Practice on Tuesday this week was okay. I had to make them run again because they just weren't focused.I can't help but wonder if 1) I'm pushing too hard or 2) if these girls don't want to be pushed.

I see so much potential in them, but I realized that if you don't have the competitive drive, you'll just never reach that potential. I realized that if you don't have the heart or the determination or the passion for it, it's just not going to work out.

I see that passion in many of my girls, but some of the others, I'm not so sure. I don't know if that is something I can teach. I don't think it is. I feel like that competitive edge is something you have to create within yourself, something you have to dig deep and bring to the surface on your own. If you want to be the best soccer player (or rider, or person or whatever) only you can make that decision. I could be the greatest soccer coach in the world, with the most talented soccer players in the world on my team, but if there's no heart, no desire.. then nothing matters.

People talk about heart all the time in sports, how teams, people, horses who are not supposed to be successful rise above the doubters and stand proud on the top of their games. Heart seems like such an intangible thing. You can't train it, you can't make it stronger, you can't make it jump higher or run faster -- it just is. You either have it or you don't.

But the great ones have it. You don't have to be the best, the fastest, the strongest, the most talented.. as long as you have heart and passion for what you do, you will find success.

I won't see the girls again until Oct. 12, and I think it's good for all of us. I hope that when I get back from my work trip we will all be refreshed, confident, and ready to go on and accomplish great things in our season.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Our second WAGS game saw us playing against the top team in the division, so I started out the game conservatively in a 3-3-1 formation. The girls really held their own in the first half, only going down one goal, and again, I learned some things about the players.

We ended up losing the game 2-0, but I was okay with that. I thought my girls were the better team, but we just haven't quite jelled yet. It'll come for sure, but it takes time. I did switch to a 2-4-2 with a holding and attacking midfielder and that worked much better, so that's what we'll play from now on.

The boy and I ended up picking up  a game last night, which was fun. It's nice to go onto a pick-up team and really be an impact player. Makes me wish I would have been the player I am now in college -- I bet my college playing would have been a hell of a lot different. Oh well.

Another busy soccer week with lots to do is ahead.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Here We Go

I'm a closet worrier. Even though I give off this self-confident, self-assured, totally got it under control vibe, in my head, I'm constantly analyzing, worrying, and wondering what I did wrong, what I can do differently, and what I'm doing well. My boyfriend is a great ear when it comes to this side of me, and he's constantly reassuring me that I don't need to worry or stress so much. It's nice.

On Thursday we had practice and I had to run the girls for the first time. They were full of giggles and silliness and we had a lot to cover in a short time. I try really hard to have fun in practice, but there comes a point when I have to put my foot down and make them realize that they are here to play soccer, not gossip.

But sometimes I question if I am pushing too hard. My team manager assures me I am not and that she'll tell me if I get to that point, but the last thing I want to do is make them sour about soccer.

I just really want to push the point home that they are good players, but they could be great players if they apply themselves a little more. I'm looking for more quality, which I hope will come with time.

Friday saw me doing keeper training for Stu again, and this session was quite rewarding for me because I felt like I really fixed something this time around. The keeper I worked with is Stu's number one keeper right now, and she has a bit of a nonchalance to her that drives me crazy! However, she's also quite capable, and if she could ever get out of this self-doubt stage and build herself up instead of tearing herself down (she is 12.. hormones and all ) she has the potential to be something special.

Our topic of the day was breakaways, something I'm pretty confident in teaching. I started at the basic level, with tunnel drill, then moved on to line o' balls, and then shadow play.

Tunnel Drill -- Keeper is in a bridge, trainer rolls ball under keeper, keeper sprints to ball and makes breakaway save.

Line o' Balls -- line up at least four balls in a row, 1-2 yards apart (can increase with keeper ability). Keeper smothers first ball, quickly up to the next, and so on. Trainer strikes ball as keeper makes save.

Shadow Play -- Keeper has to shadow a dribbling player and make a decision when to take the ball off the foot.

Once we moved to the big field, it was like she got it. Everything I taught her clicked and she was making some ridiculous saves. Such a great feeling.

The other thing I fixed was her goal kicks. She was standing at such a horrid angle to them that she couldn't get her foot under the ball. All I did was change the angle of her run up and suddenly her goal kicks were spot on.

Today, my girls had their first WAGS game. We lost 3-0, but there were some really great moments. I was thrilled with the effort they put in, and I think they learned quite a bit today, and should really take it to them tomorrow.

My defense is totally solid, but I'm missing strength in the center. The two girls who I hoped would step into that role just aren't doing what I need them to. I'm going to make some changes tomorrow, so we'll see what happens.

On a good note, the girl I picked up specifically as a goalkeeper played a  bang-up game today. She has great instincts and is going to be special. The girls improve with every game, which is exciting for me, so now we just need to put the freaking ball in the net!

Wish us luck tomorrow, I think I might relax once I get my first win under my belt.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Really Get Paid To Do This?

I made the easiest $200 of my life yesterday.

I played soccer for two hours with 9 and 10-year-old children.

I earned $200.

Someone please wake me up from this dream.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More Self Reflection And A Crazy Week

After having mouth surgery from hell on Wednesday, I decided I needed to get out of Virginia and head north to the wilds of New Jersey for some quality distraction by my great friends. The boy and I try to head up there as often as we can, and as my schedule continues to fill up, it's becoming harder and harder to get away for the weekend. I've got so many great things going on now, and this week really is the first taste of what the rest of my fall is going to look like.

Monday: Goalkeeper Academy
Tuesday: Practice
Wednesday: (gasp!) Day off
Thursday: Practice
Friday: Stu Keeper Training twice a month
Saturday: Games
Sunday: Games

And of course, this schedule doesn't included my co-ed games, or my work responsibilities, though generally they don't conflict with each other. Generally. I'm sure that day will come.

I'm loving life, really, but sometimes I really miss riding. Like, really, really miss riding.

Maybe someday I'll be able to fit it all in.

Anyway, on Saturday I went and watched Centenary play Eastern at a pre-season tournament, and it was so fun to watch the girls play. Ashley, the goalkeeper who came in as a freshman my senior year, is in her final year on the team and played such a great game. I was so proud of her and how far she has come in the last four years. It was really cool to see how not only her game as improved, but her leadership on the field.

Way to go, Ash!

Of course, it's also always nice to catch up with some of the parents of the girls I played with, and catch up with  my old coach, the one and only Kevin Davies.

I have to say, he hasn't changed a bit, and although he's got a gruff, crusty exterior when it comes to what's going on on the pitch, he never fails to greet his former players with a big hug and kiss on the cheek, and say, "How you doing, girl," in that craggy Welsh accent.

Kevin Davies.

I loved him, I hated him, he drove me crazy, he inspired me, he made me hate soccer, he made me better at soccer, he pushed me until I broke then picked me back off, dusted me off and put me back out there, he helped me build layer one of my teflon coating, and he was, by far, the toughest and best coach I've ever had.

But I am so glad I don't play for him anymore!

Of course, I say this all in jest. I'd love to play for him again, especially now that I feel I am playing my best soccer, because truly, playing at Centenary under Kevin was definitely a turning point for my soccer career. He won his 100th career victory this year, and I sent him a congratulatory card. I told him that I would not be the person, player and coach that I am, right now, if it wasn't for him and the quality soccer I learned under his wing, and I will stand by that. I may not have been happy with his decisions then, but I understand them now, I have have enormous respect for the position he was in and the choices he had to make. He made the best ones. I know that, and I accept that.

Now when I stand on the sidelines, I feel a little taste of the pressure he must feel on a daily basis. Who to start, who to sit. Who needs the work, who can be a difference-maker? Who's not on today? Who is going to step up to the plate? Who has been working hardest in practice?

The questions and self-debates go on and on.

My girls start their season this weekend. I'm trying hard not to have too high of expectations, but my competitive spirit is dying to win a game. It's going to be a long week :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Patriot Cup -- Day Two

Umm.. someone must have switched my team overnight. We finished the tournament 0-4, but holy crap did they make an improvement between Saturday and Sunday!

On Saturday we lost the first game 5-1 and the second 5-0, and while the scores seem lopsided, I went home feeling like there was a lot of potential. Most of the goals were simple fixes -- defensive mis-communication, goalie mistakes .. things I knew I could fix. So while I wasn't necessarily excited about the first two games, I wasn't totally ready to shoot myself, either.

Well, on Sunday, we might as well have won both games, because they both felt that good to watch. The girls all clicked on Sunday. Where before I had eight individual players on the field, all of the sudden I had eight teammates on Sunday. They played together, they communicated, they passed the ball, they took shots, they worked their butts off, and they came off the field smiling.

"That was a win," I told them after their first game, which they lost 1-0. "That is what a win feels like."

Because in  my eyes, they had won that game. Their effort was far greater than the other teams, and they had so many chances.

The second game we lost 2-0, but again, I didn't feel like it was a loss. The girls learned so much this weekend that it was a really great tournament for them. The wins will come, for sure, and now I have a practice plan for the next three weeks until their season starts -- finishing!

I learned a lot about coaching, too. Saturday I was trying too hard to get everyone in, and I realized that I can't do that. This is a competitive travel team, and while I need to make sure the girls get playing time, I don't necessarily have to stress about equal playing time. I have five subs sitting on the bench when the whole team is there, which is fantastic, but it's also tough to make sure everyone gets the same amount of minutes.

So on Sunday, I put in my starters, then let them play. I didn't make changes right away, but let the team get into the flow of the game and find a rhythm, then I started making changes. It worked so much better. I was much more organized, and I still was able to get everyone in.

I have a lot to learn still, and so does my team, but now instead of being a bundle of nerves about my coaching ability and the ability of my girls to compete, I'm a lot more confident that not only will we be competitive, but that we have the potential to have a great season.

Until next time, we're working on offense. Lots and lots of offense.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Patriot Cup -- Day One

I made my coaching debut today. I mean, I've been a coach at games before, but this was my first team, my first tournament, my first stint as the leader of the pack (and believe me, I've got a pack!), and my first taste of what is in store for me for the rest of the season.

I don't know whether to be amused or to curl up in a ball and cry.

Actually, it really wasn't that bad. I had to step back and realize that I am coaching a brand new team, and I am a brand new coach, and this is a brand new experience. Things aren't going to be bright and shiny just yet.

We lost both games, but I certainly learned a lot, and I have a definite plan for tomorrow.

There's a lot of improvements to be made, mostly offensively. We need to learn to shoot!

All in all, though, I'm pumped. There's so much talent on this team, and we just need time to develop it. I wish I had more to write, but my brain is fried, and I have a rum and coke in hand.

Life is good.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The "D" Clinic

So, the past two weekends in a row I have lived, breathed, sweated, and bled soccer. It was amazing. Totally, wonderfully, perfectly amazing. Sure, my legs ached, my  muscles cramped, my feet felt like they were going to fall off, and I experienced levels of exhaustion I haven't felt since pre-season training in college, but damn, I left each session feeling so invigorated and full of knowledge that I couldn't wait for more!

The very first weekend saw us on the field from 8am to roughly 5:30, and essentially, we ran through four or five different practice sessions from start to finish. It was so fun to go out there and actually work on some technical parts of my game, things I haven't truly worked on in ages. But, holy crap, even though I can play a game from start to finish without a sub, I was tired by the end of two sessions. The fitness level was so different, and it was pretty surprising and a true eye opener for me!

The first weekend was mostly about learning different practice sessions and learning different coaching methods. The second weekend was all about applying those lessons into a practical exam. We each got a practice go, and my topic was "coaching to improve shape in the attack" ...


Of course, once I came down from the initial panic, I realized exactly what I needed to do, and really, it ended up being fine. The guy running the clinic said that I did a very good job, but that I needed to be less of a cheerleader ( haha ) and focus on improving the quality of my coaching points. I left that session pretty nervous, and immediately called Stu. He easily shot down my concerns and told me I'd have no problem. I believed him.

My actually topic for the exam was "coaching to switch the point of attack" which I was totally thrilled about. It was something I was confident in coaching, and I had a plan even before I left the field on Saturday. Of course, I called Stu and went over my plan, and he thought it was good, but as the evening went on, I became more and more unsure. Self-doubt is a terrible thing!

I didn't sleep well that night, and had crazy dreams about setting up my practice in my bedroom and not having enough space to run it. Panic.

I was fourth to go on Sunday, and I eagerly participated in as many sessions as I could to support my fellow coaches. When I finally did set up my plan, I got yelled at for taking too much time, but it wasn't my fault that the person before me left their junk all over the field! Oi.

When I finally did start my session, I just jumped right in and got straight to it. I actually barely remember the session or what I actually said and coached, but evidently I did well because I probably had the shortest session of the day. They moved me on from each section really quickly, which I've heard is a good thing.

When my session ended, I felt really good. I felt confident in what I did, and it was so nice to hear my fellow coaches echo my own feeling of success. One coach in particular said, "That was quality, Coree." Can you say floating on air? Wow, what a great feeling.

 The rest of the afternoon was a blur of sessions, water breaks, and conversation, and by the time I left the clinic, I was thoroughly exhausted, but thoroughly thrilled about what I had accomplished and learned.

Not only did I prove myself as a coach, but it was very, very exciting for me to find that I am a better soccer player now than I ever was in college. There were several high-class players at the clinic this weekend, including two D1 players, and a few players who played professionally, and it was so awesome to be able to play with them. To be able to keep up, and be competitive among such skilled players was a HUGE morale boost for me.

I was talking to Stu after the clinic and I mentioned that, and he laughed and told me that as a player, you never stop improving. The older you get, the better you get, and while your body may not be as fast or limber or bounce as easily as you get older, you never stop being a student of the game, and as long as you keep playing, you never stop growing as a player.

Sometimes I wish I had the skills that I have now in college, but I realize now that my college soccer experience was where my coaching education truly began. If it wouldn't have been for the coaching I received in college, and the passion for the sport instilled in me at at early age, I would never be sitting here, writing about pursuing a career in coaching.

And you know what? I understand now that I do want that career. I love every minute spent out there on the pitch. I enjoy watching the girls eyes light up when they come to practice, and the joy and enthusiasm they bring each and every session. I love watching the light bulbs go off when things click into place, and watching their improvement from practice to practice.

After the girls' scrimmage last week, my team manager told me the parents were thrilled with what I had done so far. I was grateful for the praise, but I still carried this inner self-doubt that I didn't know what I was doing.

But, completing that "D" clinic reassured me that even though I've got a long way to go, I am on the right track, and receiving that praise and support from my coaching peers gave me the confidence boost I have been looking for.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Just An Update

I have been sorely neglecting this blog, and for that .. well, I suck. Things have been a little crazy and a lot stressful, but in my second life as a soccer coach, they couldn't be better.

I've been working with the girls for two months now, and I've definitely seen a lot of improvement. I've had good reports from Stu about his starting keeper, who I've mentioned several times in this blog. I really want to go watch her play soon.

The biggest development since I've last posted anything would be my coaching clinic experience. I'm going for my "D" license, and the process has been a little, well, nerve-wracking.

It's not that I don't think I'm qualified, but rather that I'm nervous! Basically, you are evaluated on your coaching skills and understanding of the game. You work out a practice plan and you have to work out key coaching points. It's been an interesting process, and I have my testing this weekend.

The girls have a big scrimmage tonight. They're playing a team a year older than them, so it'll be a good challenge. I'm nervous about that, too, and about the tournament we're going to on Labor Day weekend.

Playing wise, I had a blast at Neptune, but haven't played since. Vacation and a leg infection has kept me sidelined. But, since I have two games Thursday, I'll be back in action.

Friday, July 16, 2010

How To Teach Falling

I've had a very full soccer week this week, and while I'm slightly exhausted, I'm also full the brim with enthusiasm. It was a good week.

On Wednesday I picked up an extra keeper training session for the club I'm working for, and it was great fun working with two 10-year-olds and a 14-year-old keeper. The 14-year-old is going to be something special, that's for sure. She's only been playing keeper for a year and she's so brave it's ridiculous. A little raw, but the instincts and the natural talent is right there. Very exciting. 

On Tuesday and Thursday I did keeper training for Stu. I worked with four keepers, the "A" team starter and back-up,  the "B" team starter and a potential "A" team player that is a year younger, but just as talented. It's always interesting to work with these girls, because they represent several different stages of development for young keepers.

"A" Team Starter -- a good solid keeper, has all the right skills, all the footwork, all of the base understanding of where she needs to be and what she needs to do, but her attitude just stinks. She has a tendency to be lazy and a little sloppy because she KNOWS she is number one right now. However, at the end of the session on Thursday, she said something to me that really frustrated me.

"I know I am losing my starting spot."

I pulled her aside after the session and had a little heart to heart. I told her that she had everything it takes to be a great keeper, but she had to find the heart for it, and she had to show me that she wanted it. She then told me that she "puts herself down so she'll work harder".

This floored me. I made her look me straight in the eyes, and I told her that putting herself down was not the way to become a better player, that she had to build herself up to become better. Instead of saying "I suck" or "I'm playing so bad" that she had to think "I am better, I will be better, right now" and keep working harder.

I told her that if she didn't have the confidence in herself, then her teammates and coach wouldn't have confidence in her. I told her she had a week to think about it, and I really hope she comes in next Thursday and blows my socks off. I know she can do it, if she can break out of her self-depreciating mood. Then again, she is a 13-year-old girl.

"A" Team Underdogs -- There are two of them, and they're both spicy little players. They're tenacious, they're tough, they go in and put in one-hundred percent in every drill I tossed their way.

They made my day on Thursday. Seriously. I was so pleased with them. Not only with their effort, but the fact that they were respectful of me, they listened to what I was saying and applied it, they pushed when I asked them for more, and they did everything with a smile.

After practice was over I sat down with them and told them what a great job they did for me, and I told them that if they kept it up they'd be pushing for that starting spot. We also talked about how important it is to support each other, and for the goalkeepers to stick together in their own little 'team'. I was so impressed and encouraged by their maturity and I'm really looking forward to next week. They still have things they need to work on, for sure, but if they keep up their current work ethic and attitude they will go really far, not only on the soccer field, but in life as well.

"B" Team Starter -- it's funny, because I see so, so much of myself in this girl. She towers over her teammates, and is practically the same body-type as I am, so I can really relate to the mechanics of her body and the training she needs to excel. I was pleasantly surprised on Tuesday by how quick she was on her feet in the ladder drills, but I knew the hardest thing for her would be getting down quickly. We worked on that on Thursday.

I had to push her pretty hard, and I felt like that I was trying to break her down. She was so hesitant to lay out for the ball, and I literally had to teach her to not be afraid of hitting the turf. Now that I'm reflecting back on that session, I realize that she wasn't necessarily worried about hitting the ground, but she was afraid to fall.

To fall down, to fail, to stumble, to screw up. It's a fear that's in all of us, isn't it? None of us want to feel that vulnerable or that low, but sometimes, in order to learn, you just have to let go.

I kept telling her, "Just go for it, I don't care if you miss the ball by 100 miles, I just want you to dive."

And eventually, she was, and boy did she make some great saves. I knew it was in her, just like I knew it was in me so many years ago. But I was afraid to fall once, too, and only when someone gave me permission to jump off the edge, did I truly understand how to be a great goalkeeper.

I pushed her hard yesterday, but she took it so well, and she kept going, even when she was tired, and her shoulder was aching, and her elbow was bleeding, and even though she may not be up to the level of the other girls in regard to speed and quickness, she has them totally beat when it comes to her presence in the goal. She's going to be great, I know it. Similar to "A" Team Starter, she just has to dig down and believe it.

My team practice was canceled on Tuesday because of a thunderstorm, but we gathered last night for our second team session. I had nine girls this time, and we worked on lots of different skill sets, things I like to call 'Soccer 101'.

We started out by dribbling in a grid, and I had them doing pull back turns, Cryuff turns, scissors, and then fakes. It was so funny because they kept coming up to me when they were practicing fakes and asking if it was okay to do a fake then a Cryuff, or a fake with a pull back. I had to laugh, and I told them all, "soccer is about being creative!"

It's so, so true.

After the dribbling exercise we moved on to two and one-touch passing, just to work on those little techniques, then a passing drill that I was taught in college. I was really happy with the way they came together as a team to beat their time in the passing drill, and it's definitely something I'll be doing with them again.

We finished the night by scrimmaging, and their enthusiasm got the better of them for the first 5-10 minutes, but as the game went on, they started making great passing sequences. They ended the game with a brilliant goal from our central defender.

This group of girls is such a blast, but I'm going to have to find creative ways to contain their endless enthusiasm, because they certainly like to talk! I noticed that the more I keep them moving, the better they are, so that will be a goal for my sessions from now on, not so much down time.

All in all, it really was a great week of soccer. I still find it unbelievable that I am getting paid to teach something that has been such an influential part of my life.

Monday, July 12, 2010

And So It Begins

I write so much for work that sometimes I have to step back and write a little for myself. Whether that's penning a few random lines of poetry (which I really don't do much of anymore) or a few thousand words of whatever book project I'm working on (which needs to happen more often!) or writing in this blog, sometimes letting words flow freely helps me re-motivate.

Motivation has certainly been lacking in my life lately, though its no fault of anyone or anything. I've found that occasionally I stall out and need a re-charge, and with all of the added stress I've been carrying lately, that was certainly the catalyst for my recent case of the blues.

However, I'm pretty certain that I'm finally climbing out of that hole, whether it's the fact that Steve is finally moved in, or that practices have started, or that I've finally taken a deep breath, I'm not sure, but I'm definitely in much better spirits lately.

As I mentioned, I finally started my team practices last week, and I feel like the first one was a success! I started out by showing the girls the warm-up I want them to do every day, and of course, broke the ice by tripping in a hole and face planting. Way to go.

I laughed it off, but secretly I was totally mortified.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the girls, since I'd never seen any of them play, so I focused on ball skills for the first half of practice. Some of them had good skills, some of them need some work, but that's what the summer is for, so we're going to keep working on those skills as much as possible. One thing I noticed is that they really need to work on the concept of field spacing and passing.

Of course, I have to remember that these girls are only 11, and that soccer is supposed to be FUN. I tried to keep the practice as positive and fun as possible, and considering the girls were smiling the entire time, even when we were doing 'conditioning' work with ladders, I think I did okay.

I have two practices this week, in addition to two keeper training sessions, so I'm looking forward to that. Keeper training is easy for me, the team practices are definitely a challenge, but I'm new to this, and I'm learning all the time. I'm excited for my coaching clinics in August, that should definitely help me along the way.

As far as my own playing goes, I played in a tournament this weekend down in Spotsylvania. We lost all three games, but it was a lot of fun to camp out on Saturday night. I played okay, definitely not my best games, but I was happy with some of the offensive runs I made up the field. I love playing that left defensive position and taking the ball up the wing. In the second game I definitely had some great moments, and if only I had a left foot I might have had myself a goal or two.

I've finally gotten to the point that I'm confident taking people on, which is something I've struggled with my entire life as a player. I've just never had the ball control. I'm happy that I have it now. I'm never going to be able to totally school people, but I definitely have one or two good moves up my sleeve.

The third game was a bit doomed from the start, and considering I was pretty sore from the first two games, including a swollen ankle from getting railed on in the second game, I felt like I did okay.

We lost all three games, but that's soccer for you. Sometimes you can't lose, sometimes it's all you can do.

On another note, I'm a little sad that the World Cup is over. It was so fun to see so much quality soccer, especially the goalkeeping. I really think that the goalkeeping this WC was stellar.

Of course, I was pulling for the Dutch to win, but after their abysmal play and the insane amount of yellow cards, Spain was the rightful winner. Not only that, the goal was one of the most perfect side volleys I've ever seen. What a strike!

I'm sure I'll have more updates this week, considering it's packed with soccer. For now, though, the creative juices are flowing, and I've got a story to write!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Rain Washed It All Away

I haven't written in a few weeks because I have been in the midst of something I've been referring to as TSH ... aka, Travel Soccer Hell. It's safe to say that the last few weeks have ranked among the most stressful of my entire life. Between feeling like I had been thrown into an ocean without knowing how to swim, feeling totally insecure and completely lacking in self-confidence, and tearing my hair out at least three times, I still managed to somehow, by the grace of God and everything that's holy, keep the girls on last year's team together. I still don't know how I did it, but I did, and despite everything that happened and the numerous parents I probably pissed off, I made it happen.

However, with that joy, came the frustration and disappointment in having to make the phone calls to the girls who didn't make it. The parents were much more understanding than I thought they would be, but I still felt sick every time a new number came up on my phone, or I sat down to make a call.

It was so, so hard.

The weekend all of this was happening, I was on assignment for work. Luckily, it required hiking through the woods for hours, and I spent a lot of that quiet time tearing myself into pieces. Was I doing the right thing? Did I have the right intentions? Was I trying too hard to make it work when it never would?

People have this perception that I am a strong, self-confident, happy person, and for the most part, I am. But sometimes, I am so doubtful of myself that I feel like I'm drowning. Sometimes, I make myself feel so guilty over things that I am clearly innocent, and most of the time, I'm willing to shoulder the blame even when it isn't mine to carry. That weekend in the woods, in the peace that came from being surrounded by nothing but trees, earth and sky, I literally broke myself down from the inside out and built myself back together again. It didn't feel good, it sucked, but I had to do it. I had to make sure that I was in the right frame of mind when those phone calls started coming.

When the dust finally settled, I had a roster of 13 incredibly talented soccer players. I couldn't be happier with the team I built, and I'm so excited to get started. We had a parents meeting last night, and I really think I made an impact with my training philosophy and plan of action. I know I will make mistakes and I know that some of my ideas may not work, but I also know I'm on the right track.

Watching the USA win their World Cup group yesterday made me incredibly hopeful that the United States will one day become a powerhouse soccer nation. The spirit and determination is there, and the fan support is growing every day. If I can be a small part of creating the next generation of soccer fanatics, then I've made a great contribution to the sport that has given me so much joy in my life already.

It's funny how life turns around so quickly. A year ago, I was riding every day and planning horse shows. Today, I haven't ridden in months because all my free time has been taken up by soccer. The funny thing is, for the first time, I'm okay with that. I'm in love with soccer again, and it makes me ridiculously happy every time I step on the field, whether I am playing or coaching.

During one of the worst weeks of TSH, I had one of my last spring season co-ed games. It was a typical muggy early-summer day, and as we began the game, the skies suddenly opened. The rain began falling so hard and heavy that none of us could see. In the roar and pounding water, I couldn't help the swell of joy that burst upward in my chest. It seemed like with that torrential downpour, with the incredibly outpouring from the heavens, I found some sort of peace within myself at last. I lifted my arms, looked to the sky and laughed, because I realized that all of this mess was temporary, and that the most beautiful days come after the worst of storms.

I've always loved playing soccer in the rain, and that day, the rain helped me remember why.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

There's No Crying In Soccer

Sometimes I think we, as a nation, put way too much pressure on being the best. Somehow we decided that winning is the only thing that matters, and anything less is worthless. I want to change that perception, because honestly, the best lessons I have ever learned have come from losing. Winning is great, it makes you feel good, makes you feel like you did what you were supposed to do and makes you feel special, but what does it teach you?

Now, don't get me wrong, there have certainly been games that winning taught me many things about myself, like perseverance and never giving up, but how many professional athletes do you see talking about a great win defining their career? I think it's interesting that most great athletes will tell you that a defeat is what changed them and pushed them to new heights.

I'm not saying we should all go out and try to lose games, because that's not the point. What I'm saying is that yes, it's great to win games and tournaments and trophies and accolades, but it's okay to lose, too. It's okay to fail, it's okay to make mistakes. The world is not going to blow up because you missed a shot or let someone get past you on defense or gave up a goal.

I promise.


I swear.

Last night I was working out the keepers that were trying out for Stu's U13 age group. (Stu told me after the try-out that I was glowing. I laughed and told him that's because I was doing something I know I'm good at, working with keepers. He said, "I know you're good at it, that's why you're here!" It was awesome. I'm still kind of glowing from it :) ) First of all, I was amazed at the difference one year makes in the keepers for the U12 and the ones for U13. Pretty impressive. I was really happy with what I worked with, but I am sorry to say, that I made one cry.

Now, I don't necessarily think it was anything I was doing, but I could tell this talented little keeper (whom I picked out for an "A" team slot almost immediately) was struggling. So I pulled her aside and asked her what was going on.

"I'm playing so bad!" She said as tears started streaming down her cheeks.

I tried to tell her it was okay, that I thought she was doing fine, and that the world was not ending.

"But I can't handle anything and I'm having a bad day and today is not the day because it's try-outs."

I told her that everyone has bad days, and that's why they always have more than one day of try-outs. I said to take all that emotion and get in there and show me how good she was.

She got back in between the posts and did a much better job, but I think she was still upset. It made me a little sad to think that this girl was so upset about playing soccer. A game. Something we are supposed to do because we love it and enjoy it and want to be on the field, not something that makes us cry because we didn't live up to expectations.

But I've shed my fair share of tears over soccer. I've cried over wins and losses, cried over mistakes, cried over big successes, cried because I didn't feel I was good enough, cried because of coaches yelling at me, cried because of pain, cried because I just cared that much. Maybe that's what makes me a good soccer player, because I do have that passion, and I do care. Even now, after high school and college ball, playing in adult co-ed leagues that really mean nothing, I care.

There's a certain sense of pride in being a soccer player, a certain sense of belonging that's hard to find anywhere else. On the pitch, from whistle to whistle, you don't think about anything else. There's nothing but a ball and 22 players, the turf, the elements, sweat, tension, adrenaline. For 90 minutes, you forget about everything life has thrown at you, forget about work and your problems, and for 90 minutes, you just play. You run until you can't anymore. You fight and you scramble and you grab and shove and claw and pull and kick. You do everything you can to push that spherical object where you want it to go, regardless of the pain, the blood, the emotions. It's a true expression that the soccer pitch really is a battlefield, but it's one I happily step on almost every day because of the joy it gives me, no matter what the final score.

So when this 12-year-old started crying because she didn't feel good enough, it's safe to say I understood. But I wish she didn't feel that way. I wish there were no expectations for these players at 12-years-old. I wish that they could find joy in it, instead of stressing over being "good enough".

Because honestly, to me, they are good enough. Every single one of them is good enough. No, they may never be division 1 soccer players. But for them to be out on the field, doing something they love, and putting themselves on the line, that is good enough.

Life isn't about wins and losses. It's about finding what you love and doing it, regardless of what people have to say and whether you are good enough or not. I know I'll never be a World Cup soccer player, in fact, I know now that I'll never ride in the Olympics like I used to dream about, but just because I am not good enough to do that, does not decrease my value as a human being, and doesn't mean I should quit riding or playing soccer.

You are good enough. We are good enough. Everyone is good enough.

You just have to believe it.

After our co-ed game last night, where I played one of my better games on defense, we were talking about one of our upcoming tournaments where we don't have a keeper yet, and I said that I always could jump in net.

One of my teammates looked me dead in the eye and said:

"No, I'd rather have you in the defense."

I played it off, laughing, and he said again.

"Coree, you're an awesome defender. Really."

It was funny, because all my life I've been an awesome goalkeeper, and always questioned my field abilities. I've always questioned whether I was good enough.

It's amazing how a simple, unexpected compliment can make you confident in something you knew deep down, but might have been too afraid to believe.

I am good enough.

Maybe through coaching I can help these girls know they are good enough, too.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Meet Texas

Rule number one about new cleats: Don't put them on and proceed to play an intense soccer game. You will have no skin left on your heel. It only took 15 minutes.

Fortunately I had my old cleats with me, so I was able to pop off my beautiful, beautiful new ones in exchange, and proceeded to play a bang-up game. Of course, I missed two perfect goal scoring opportunities, but then again, I was a goalkeeper, and I do primarily play defense now. We still won 9-3 or something. It was a little ridiculous.

Anyway, enough about me and my new blister, affectionately dubbed Texas (his counterpart on the right heel is Rhode Island). I couldn't have picked a better week for hurting myself, considering my schedule is packed with soccer.

We had our last round of try-outs for the U12s on Monday, and I was super excited to pick my team that night, but we had to hold off on picking girls because there's still some debate on whether there will three or four teams. I'm really REALLY hoping they do four, as I'd hate to have to make cuts. I offered to do both teams, but, it's not my decision and I just have to go with whatever the powers-that-be tell me to do. Soccer land kind of feels like horse show land right now. Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up, WAIT!

Even though Texas was bugging me quite a bit, I still played last night in BIPs final spring league game. I ended up playing in goal again because our keeper hurt his hand, which was fine because I'm not entirely sure how Texas would have liked defense. He didn't exactly like having cleats on at all, but evidently my old turfs are acceptable. I didn't really get tested in net, but I did have a solid game. Made a few saves but mostly just controlled the defense and distributed. It was nice to feel confident back there again, and it helped that my defensive line was nearly flawless. I really love playing with those guys and gals, and I look forward to putting yellow on every week.

Today and tomorrow I'm helping out Stu with his try-outs, working out the keepers and essentially helping him split 60 girls into three teams. Stu has done so much for me that I'm happy to help him out whenever I can.

Other than that, there's not much to report. Lots of soccer, lots of work, lots of thinking about where I'm going to go and what I want to do with my life. But, that's nothing new either, really. I've always been guilty of thinking way too far ahead of myself.

For now, I'm just going to play, and hope that Texas doesn't turn into China.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Good News And A Return Between The Posts

Between work trips to California and my crazy schedule, I haven't had a lot of time to even think, let alone think about writing a blog post. I always struggle a little bit with blogs, not because I don't like writing them, but because I often wonder if anyone reads them.

Considering I have no followers, I assume that's the case.

But, it's okay. I really don't mind. Maybe someday I'll develop a following and make millions of dollars, but for now I'm content to have a place to express my thoughts. It helps, in this crazy world.

So, what have I been up to since May 21st?

A lot.

The biggest development, of course, was that I was offered a U12 girls travel team.

Can you say EXCITED?!

We had our first round of try-outs on Tuesday, and it's safe to say I was a little overwhelmed, but I have the benefit of working with the A and B coaches, who are amazing, and the coach of the team I am taking over, who is equally great. I'm confident that these three women will guide me in the right direction, and I couldn't be more thrilled about the opportunity to continue building my coaching resume, and learning to work with a team instead of individual training. I think I got the perfect age group, as well. These girls are talented little players, young enough that they won't hate me if I stumble or screw up, but old enough to understand the game. Plus, I will get to help them transition from 8v8 to 11v11 this spring, so that will be a good test of my own personal soccer philosophies, most of which I have developed from my own playing experience, and the wisdom of one Stu Pierson.

I seriously can't thank that man enough for his guidance, and hopefully one day I'll be a quarter of the coach he is. I'll admit that I was a little put off by him at first, but the more I listened, and the more I learned, the more sense his system and methods made. I wish I would have been able to play under him, but to stand by his side as an assistant coach was an honor, as well.

He actually encouraged me to start playing keeper again. I'd played off and on in the girls' practices, and made some saves out of pure joy that surprised everyone, including me. I didn't know I still had it in me.

"Why don't you play keeper anymore?" He asked me one day.

I had a million different excuses, but none of them seemed good enough, so I just shrugged.

"You should, you're really good."

I really had to stop and think about that statement. Am I a good keeper? I like to think I was at one point in my life, but I'm not sure if I am anymore. I like to think I'm a good soccer player in general. Not great, not brilliant, but good.

Still, the thought of playing keeper, despite my hesitations and doubts, always gets my blood running. There's just something about the position. I don't even know what it is.

Well, I got my chance on Wednesday. I stepped between the posts for the first time in about a year, and I was shocked at how nervous I was.

But you know what? I did well. I had no big mistakes (besides shanking a few drop-kicks) and I made two great saves. We tied 1-1, and I walked off the field feeling like I could do it again if I had to.

So thanks, Stu, for inspiring me to play keep again, and for inspiring me to keep pursuing this coaching thing. It's been a hell of a ride so far, and it's only bound to get better.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Words To Live By

"You should never deny yourself the opportunity to grow and learn."

Thanks, Erin.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Making Choices

I was one of those kids that did everything in high school. And by everything, I literally mean everything. Varsity soccer, varsity dance team, varsity cheerleading (yes, to my complete and utter embarrassment, I was a cheerleader my senior year), drama, jazz choir, film making, honor society, ASB, student leadership, 4-H ...

I was a busy girl.

Even when I went to college I tried to do everything. Soccer, dressage team, council for student athletes, resident assistant, first year leader.

I really don't know that I slept during my school years.

But I've always loved being busy. Still love it. There's something about a day full to the brim, and falling into bed exhausted that makes me feel like I've accomplished something.

But then again, I'm starting to realize that I just can't do it all. Believe me, I tried.

Last year, I focused on riding. I rode as often as I could, as much as I could, whenever I could, and tossed a few soccer games in just to keep me in shape. I was so excited to start competing again, so excited to get better and move up and face new challenges. But when my horse went lame, I was so disappointed. When my focus changed to soccer this spring, and when I discovered how much I loved coaching, I realized how much I wanted to pursue it.

But pursuing it means more than just committing to a team. Pursuing coaching means sacrificing another part of my life to fit it all in. But what is there to sacrifice? I certainly won't sacrifice my job, or my relationship for it, and that means there's only one thing left: horses.

To say that I love horses is a serious understatement. They've been my passion and inspiration for my entire life, and I would not be where I am right now, in this moment, without the gifts they have bestowed on me. So when I think about having to give up my dreams of competition, and the goals I have set for myself in the saddle, my heart breaks a little.

It's funny how life twists and turns around itself. I used to swear that horses would always come before soccer, and many times in my life, they have. But maybe it's time for soccer to take the top spot in my life.

But maybe, I'm not willing to choose between one or the other, and I'm just going to have to figure out a way to satisfy my two greatest passions. I've always done it before, perhaps I just need to think a little more creatively this time around.

Maybe life is telling me it's time to slow down, but then again, since when have I listened to that advice?

Stu reminded me that we shouldn't worry about things we have no control over. I have no control over the upcoming decisions that will be made in the next few days regarding my future in soccer coaching. That is in the hands of others right now. But, if the opportunity comes, I know I will make the right choice, because either way, I will be choosing something I love.

And frankly, choosing something you love isn't all that hard to do.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Sometimes it's pretty damn hard to look in the mirror. It takes a lot of courage to face yourself, to look your flaws, fears, and insecurities straight in the face. There's no masks when you look in the mirror, nothing to cover up what you don't want the world to see. It's hard to maintain your daily facade when there's no one but yourself making the judgment. We are our own harshest critics, are we not?

It took me a long time to love the girl in the mirror. To embrace my own flaws, and learn where my weaknesses lie, and that I am stronger than I think I am. It took other people holding the mirror in my face, so I couldn't deny myself any longer. It took many, many failures, losses, and mistakes, to become the girl in the mirror whom I love.

One of the things I tried to teach these girls, was to look in the mirror at the end of every day. I told them:

"If you can look in the mirror and tell yourself, not your teammates or your coach, but yourself, that you did everything you could, and gave everything you had, then you will never regret a soccer game. And if you apply it to your life, you will never regret a single moment of that, either."

I don't know if it made sense to any of them, but after losing their state play-off game, ending their season, I think they might have finally understood.

Sometimes, in soccer, the final score doesn't indicate the actual flow of the game. The girls this season have had plenty of high-goal games against lesser teams, but in some of them, they played like garbage. The girls also had a few games that ended in ties, and clearly they were the better team that day. Soccer is a funny game, in that way. Sometimes, you just can't put the ball in the net.

Tuesday's game went like that. We were playing a better opponent, but no one told those girls that. No one told them they were supposed to lose, and even when the goals fell in the other team's favor, no one told them it was time to quit. Those girls played the last 25 minutes of their last game of the season like they were possessed. The other team, despite winning, walked off the field with their heads down, but our team? We celebrated a personal victory.

The loss was bittersweet for the three seniors who wouldn't get another shot at the state title, but the rest of the team was already looking forward to next season. I'm looking forward to next season.

In our last huddle, Stu, in a traditions started at the beginning of the season, asked our two captains the question.

"Are you satisfied?"

Normally, the answer would be no. We weren't satisfied until we had the state title in our hands. But, through her tears, our captain held her head up and proudly said:


Our other captain later told her teammates, "I've never had more fun playing soccer than this season."

As a coach, those are the moments you want to see. The wins don't matter, the scoreboard doesn't matter, the state titles and the championships don't matter. It's learning how to find joy in what you do, and discovering who you are and what your made of in a group of people who are fighting for the same thing, will pick you up if you're falling, and will stand beside you to celebrate.

You learn together, you sweat together, you bleed together, and nothing but sports can teach you the value of teamwork, dedication and hard work.

This season might be over, but these memories and this experience, and these lessons will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

So at the end of it all, what did I learn? It would take me days to list everything. All of the technicalities and nuances and little things that a coach must do to create a cohesive unit are starting to make so much sense. For me, a foundation has been laid, and I am looking forward to continuing to build it.

But there is one, very important thing I learned this season, something, I think, takes some coaches years to understand.

I learned that you can have the best coaches, and be the fittest player on the field, and have the best foot skills and the most talent, but if you don't want to win, if you don't desire it and dream about it and have the heart to keep fighting even when things aren't going your way, everything else doesn't matter at all.

I learned that if a player doesn't have heart, there is absolutely nothing you can do, as a coach, to make them play.

But believe me, these 22 girls I just coached? They have heart. They proved that on Tuesday. I hope that they can look in the mirror and be proud of what they accomplished.

It was an absolute joy and privilege to coach them these past few months, and I hope that I will be honored with the chance to do it again.

When I look in the mirror now, I see a strong, independent woman who dreams big and jumps in with both feet. It just so happens that there's a soccer ball right beside me.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

So, About This Coaching Thing

I've been writing a lot about my coaching experience, but since the original point of this blog was for Introduction to Multimedia Journalism, which I am taking through mediabistro.com, I figured I better take a post to explain how one might become a coach.

Now, while my route to a coaching job was slightly unconventional, I started the right way.

1. Play. Simple as that. Whatever sport you want to coach, try and play it. As much as you can, whenever you can, as often as you can. Now, just because you've never played a sport doesn't necessarily mean you can't coach it, but understanding how the game works from a player's perspective is knowledge that simply cannot be learned. If you cannot play the game, then watch as much as you can.

2. Become a student of the game. In addition to playing, watch the game. Watch the flow, the patterns, the rhythm. Watch the transition. Watch the good players, watch the bad players. While you watch, take note if how you could improve those players, take note of how those players can improve you. Watch the coaches, listen to what they say. Does it work? Is it positive or negative? How to the players react to the coaching? Do they understand? Do the coaches lose their temper or do they approach the game with class? What are the coaches teaching their players about life?

3. Educate yourself. Know the laws of the game. Invest in a rulebook. Watch referees, good and bad, learn how they control the flow, and how they don't. Learn what constitutes a yellow card and learn how to properly call fouls, offsides, direct and indirect kicks. Take a coaching class. Invest in your coaching education like you would your college education. Courses from US Soccer and the National Soccer Coaches' Association of America offer many different paths to coaching credentials.

4. Do it. There is simply no better way to learn than to do it on the job. Volunteer! Coaching jobs don't always pay, but the experience you will gain is priceless. Put in your time now, and worry about the paycheck later.

My last bit of advice, is be passionate. In everything you do. Even if you don't know a lick about whatever sport you'd like to coach, be as enthusiastic, open, and willing to learn as possible. You are about to embark on an incredible journey.

Just jump in.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Shootout

I don't think I ever got this stressed out playing. Well, maybe I did, but it's so different when you're on the sidelines. You can yell and coach and scream all day long, but in the end, it's the players on the field who have to make the decision to win.

And oh boy, did they decide to win today.

The other team scored first, but our girls weren't about to let the score stay lopsided. Not two minutes later, our captain but a beautifully placed, left-footed shot into the back of the net.

Then, nothing. Four 5-minute scoreless overtime periods led us to a PK shootout.

Now, when I was a player, I lived for these things. I was good at them. But my keeper? She's never been in one. I knew she was capable of making at least one save, but I wasn't sure if she had the confidence in herself to do it.

The first two shooters scored, then the next four missed. The next two scored, and it was down to one shot from each team.

I called it from the sidelines. We would score, and our keeper would make a save.

I should have bet my life savings, because I'd have been a millionaire.

After 120 minutes of intense, gut-wrenching, shirt pulling, elbow flinging, bloody, sweaty soccer, we had won. I jumped off the bench, spiked my sunglasses into the ground, and gave Stu a huge hug.

"That's my goalkeeper!" I shouted in jubilation.

What a feeling. What a rush. I couldn't even explain the intense feeling of pride and happiness that came over me. I knew, without a doubt, that those girls would remember that game for the rest of their lives.

I certainly can remember the shootouts. I remember my very first shootout in eighth grade. We lost, but I won my first tournament trophy that day. Second place. I remember the shootout against Hoquiam during high school. I believe it was our school's first varsity win. The joy was there. I remember the joy.

I remember the shootout at the tournament in Bend, Ore. on my old club team, Mystique. I remember making the saves, winning the gold.

I remember a high school shootout against Ridgefield, our big rivals. We lost that one, too, but it felt like a win. It felt just as sweet and good as a victory. For us, that little varsity team from La Center High, it was.

I remember the shootout in Australia, where I didn't play in net or shoot. But I was there, and it counted.

I remember last summer, where I took a PK in a shootout for the first time in my life, and scored.

Regardless of what these girls go on to do with their lives, they will remember today. Not because they won, but because for the first time, they understood what 'team' truly means. It's about everyone. From the starters to the subs, to the girls who only get a few minutes in some games.

Right before the shootout started, some of those "bench warmers" gave the keeper a big hug of encouragement.

"I didn't ask you to do that," said Stu to those girls after the game was won. "But this victory is yours just as much as it is hers."

The may not remember the final tally, or who played and who didn't, but I guarantee they'll remember the joy. I know I still do.

The Beginning of the End

Play-offs are always tough. For the seniors, every game could be the last of their high school career, so every second spent on the field is full of nervous anxiety, gritty determination, and self-doubt.

Did I play hard enough? Did I do everything I could? Is there anything I could have done better?

After a tough loss a few weeks ago, I sat the girls down and spoke to them as a teammate, not as a coach. I couldn't help the emotions that sprang into my voice.

"I wish someone would have told me as a freshman, even as a senior, in high school, that you have to play every game like it's your last," I said. "You have to leave everything on the field, because you just don't know. If you can look in the mirror after a game, and be totally honest with yourself, and know that you did everything you could, then you'll never regret a second on the field."

Do I have soccer regrets? Of course. I regret sitting on the bench my last three games of my senior year of college. It sucked. There's no other way to describe that feeling. But did I learn something? You bet I did.

Stu hit the nail on the head after the girls won the CAC championship. He addressed the girls that didn't play, pulling them out and telling them, very clearly, that even though they didn't step foot on the field, they were still champions.

"Do you push these girls every day in practice to be better? Do you live to take the ball away from them, and do you cheer them on every minute of every game? You are all part of this team, no matter how big or small your role in it."

I don't know if he realized what he said affected me as much as it did, but it was like everything suddenly clicked into place.

All at once, I didn't regret those three games anymore, because with those words that he spoke to those girls, I understood. My role on the Centenary College Women's Soccer Team wasn't necessarily as a starting player towards the end of my college career, but as part of the support system. I don't take full credit for my replacement's talent in the net, but I like to think I had something to do with her confidence, her leadership, and her self-esteem.

I also like to think that my leadership helped push my team to be better, and that the hard work I put in for four years influenced at least one person. I definitely know that I influenced myself.

Maybe that's enough.

The girls have another tough game today, and from here on out, a loss will signify the end of their season. And even though the seniors will feel like their world is over, I can speak from experience that it is not.

I remember how I felt after my last college soccer game. I only got to play about 30 minutes of the second half because we were down 5-0. But when that final whistle blew, and the tears came, I suddenly and very clearly understood that the past four years had truly been one of the best experiences of my life. The scores didn't matter, the statistics meant nothing, but the lessons, the joy, the memories and the friendships I made will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I don't imagine that any of these girls will understand that for a long time, but someday, they'll look back and appreciate everything the game gave to them.

For now, though, they've got a game to win and a mirror to look into after the final whistle.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fake It 'Til You Make It

That's me, in the yellow.

When I mentioned that I have been playing soccer for 17 years, I didn't mention the position I played. For those that know me, it's really not all that surprising to discover that I was a goalkeeper.

I'm loud, proud, tough and.. well, a tiny bit aggressive. Just a little. A smidge. Really.

Okay, okay, I admit it, there's something totally awesome about running down a loose ball and just accidentally clipping the opposing player's legs and sending them flying through the air.

This isn't about my love of full-contact sports, though, and we'll save the stories of the yellow cards and broken femurs for another entry.


I'm a goalkeeper. I don't play the position anymore unless I have to, mostly due to the fact my body just doesn't like to stretch into acrobatic feats and bone-crunching saves, but when I do get a chance to stand between the posts?

Oh. Man.

What a feeling! What a homecoming. It's like the metal bars reverberate and say, 'Where the heck you been, kid? We missed you!'

When I step into that box, it's an instant sense of belonging. I know what to do here, I know how to react, I know how to feel, and I know how to play this position. Most of the time I get that feeling on the field as well, but there's this word that fits how I feel between the posts.

When I play keeper, I've got swagger.

So, it seems totally natural that when I was putting feelers out for a coaching position, I slyly slipped in that I was a goalkeeper coach.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Winner!


I've been working with the starting goalkeeper since the beginning of the season, and while I've trained keepers in the past, I've never actually worked with one who didn't know anything.


This girl knew the name of the position. That's it.

Still, this was a big opportunity to mold a player into what I feel is an ideal keeper. Quick on their feet, powerful, confident, strong, a leader.

This keeper had none of these traits when I first met her. She was quiet, shy, timid, and incredibly insecure. But, I have to give her a lot of credit, she was most definitely tough.

This girl never said no during a training session. No matter how many times I made her dive and get up, no matter how many rounds of footwork ladders I made her do, no matter how many times I made her do push-ups for a sloppy goal or how many times I yelled at her for not catching properly, she just kept working.

And as the weeks went on, I watched her swagger grow.

She's still not entirely confident in her position yet, but playing goalkeeper takes a special kind of attitude. This girl hasn't completely developed it, and like all goalkeepers, she's incredibly hard on herself. But, if she keeps working and learning and listening, she's going to be great.

Sometimes, though, it's really, really hard to play goalkeeper. A true keeper always puts the blame on herself, and this girl is no different. After a tough week of losses, she was feeling pretty down about her performance, and even after a 2-0 win last Thursday, she looked like she'd just buried her dog.

I pulled her aside after practice yesterday, after an equally grumpy expression was set on her face for most of the session.

"Listen, kid," I said. "I know how hard it is to play this position. I know it's frustrating, I know it's tough, I know that sometimes you're so mad that all you want to do is scream and run as far away from soccer as you can."

I took a breath.

"But you are not the only person on this team. From this point on, you have to find a smile, no matter how bad you feel. If you look miserable all the time, your team is going to be miserable. If you look like you're not having fun, you're team isn't going to have fun. You have to find that little spark of joy and hold onto it with everything you can."

"I know," she said with a little smile. "I will."

I didn't feel the need to tell her that she wouldn't learn to appreciate her position until long after her high school career was over. She wouldn't understand the role she played on this team and to her teammates, until the painted lines have faded from the field of play, and the scores were long forgotten.

I simply told her, that even if the world is crumbling down about her, and nothing was going right, she had to fake a smile, fake the confidence, and play for the 21 other girls on her team, not for herself. And that maybe, the longer she worked at being confident and happy and full of joy, the more real it would become.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Golden Rule Of Coaching


I mentioned once before that I decided I needed to be coaching soccer on a whim. Here's how it all started.

I was sitting at my desk one day surfing the internet for potential jobs for my boyfriend, when I came across a coaching ad for a high school. I thought about applying, but the school was a good 25 miles from work in the opposite direction of where I live. Not do-able.

But I wanted to apply so bad. SO bad. I mulled over it for a while, then made a decision. I sent an e-mail to the head coach at a local private high school, and went to lunch.

Not 20 minutes after I sent this e-mail, I received a phone call. I was hired on the spot! And they were going to pay me! SWEET!

So suddenly I was a coach, and while I was a little apprehensive for the first day of practice, I had no idea what these girls were going to throw at me.

Golden Rule Of Coaching Teenage Girls


On day two of practice, one of the girls ran off the field crying after asking me to go to the bathroom. I had to blink and look twice.

"Should I go after her?" I asked Stu.

Of course I should have, and I did. Off I go at a jog, wait outside the bathroom, listen for a second in case she really did just need to use the loo ... and in I go.

And yes, she was crying.

"What's going on, girl?" Sympathetic, understanding, nice smile.

"My friend on the team.." Sob. "Is mad at me." Sob. "Because her friend's boyfriend..." Sob. "Cheated on her friend.." Big sob. "With me!"

Wait. Hold on. Rewind. How old are you?

I had to take a deep breath to keep from laughing. Instead, I gave her a big hug and said I understood.

I didn't.

I'm a total tomboy. I didn't have any interest in boys until I got to college. Boy drama? Not in my life! Oi vei!

Anyway, I must have said the right thing, probably something along the lines of 'use all this anger and frustration on the field'. Away she went, and evidently, everything is fine.

Fast forward a couple weeks, and we're down south playing a tough match. One of my favorite players forgets her sports bra and has to borrow one from one of her friends. It's too small.


Stu, being a man, comes stomping over to me, points to said girl, and yells, "I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S WRONG WITH HER AND WHY SHE'S PULLING ON HER BRA BUT YOU NEED TO FIX IT RIGHT NOW!"

Okay, Coach, I've got it!

"What's going on, girl?"

Why do I keep asking?

The sports bra was so tight she couldn't breath. My solution? Cut the elastic. Of course, that brings forth a string of protest.

It's not my bra! Don't cut my bra! It's fine, I can go back in!

Face. Palm.

Stu, in the meantime, is screaming for said girl to get back on the field, and is looking at me like I have all the answers.

"Put someone elses' bra on.."

No one is willing to give up their sports bra.

Finally, after much cajoling, said girl and other girl and I march down to the woods behind the field, where they proceed to switch bras. Said girl goes back on the field, and has no more problems.

Moral of the story? Don't forget your sports bra!

Dilemma solved, the game went on, and after all was said and done, Stu comes over and sits down next to me, shaking his head.

"Thank god you're here."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In The Beginning, God Created Soccer

Whoever invented football should be worshiped as a God. -- Hugo Sanchez


a form of football played between two teams of 11 players, in which the ball may be advanced by kicking or by bouncing it off any part of the body but the arms and hands, except in the case of the goalkeepers, who may use their hands to catch, carry, throw, or stop the ball.
Soccer. The Beautiful Game. The Ballet Of The Masses. The Opera Of The People. The World's Game.

Billions of people all over the world play soccer -- from the highly competitive Premier Leagues, to the thousands of collegiate and youth players, to the children who play on the streets in the city -- as long as you can find a ball, you can play.

Soccer has been a part of my life for the past 17 years. The sport has taken me on a journey of thousands of miles, several different countries, and a dozen different states, and taught me lessons about life that one can only learn through teamwork, dedication, determination, and, inevitably, loss. I have probably lost more games in my life than I have won. And some of those losses stand out to me more than the wins.

But, oh, the victories. How sweet they were.

After four years of college play, I thought my life with soccer would be over, but I think I might have discovered something better.

For the past six weeks, I have been working at an assistant coach for a local high school girl's soccer team. What a perspective. Suddenly, all those things those coaches yelled about made sense. Suddenly, I understood.

And suddenly, I wanted more. Coaching turned on a dusty, unused light bulb in my head. Coaching is what I am supposed to be doing!

All my life I have been trying to figure out how I could make a difference in the world. And without warning, it was in front of me.

I decided to pursue coaching on a whim. I jumped in with both feet and took off running. That leap of faith has turned into a desire to continue to teach young people everything the game and my coaches taught me.

Soccer has brought me some of my lowest moments, but it has also carried me to where I am today. A strong, successful, independent woman who dreams big and continually pushes past the realm of normal to pursue bigger passions.

My name is Coree. I am a girl. I play soccer, too.