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.