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.