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.