One of the weekly blogs I follow is centered around the theme of Making a Difference in the lives of the athletes we work with. The writer has been a great source of perspective for me as I continue my journey with our future leaders. All coaches face similar sets of obstacles in their day-to-day work with athletes but working with those that are still in the process of discovering themselves brings its own unique set of challenges.
The young athlete does not have the singular luxury of focusing on just being the best they can possibly be in their sport of choice. The demands on their time and attention is so diverse, it is amazing that they get anything done at all. However, time management is one area that I feel athletes excel in as they find balance between school, social and home life. We as coaches must keep in mind all of these demands that are being placed upon our players while still helping them find focus and committment to their sport. The drive and passion that brought these players to us in the first place must be nurtured and honed such that players want to test themselves in competition. We must prepare them to face the challenges not only on the field of play, but also those internal struggles that every competitive athlete faces.
For those that have followed my rambling this season know, I have been working with a group that I felt have the capability to play at a very high level, yet, we never seem to quite reach our potential. We possess a high degree of personal skills, are very tactically aware and bring a strong field presence to our games. But still we let those games that should have been ours, slip away uncontested.For most of this season, we have failed to play to our full potential and you could see the frustration in the player’s faces after games. As a coach, I know that it is my responsibility to help guide our team and find our focus in play so, I knew we needed to do something.
We sat down as a team last week and just put it all out on the table. I told them that from day one, I was very excited about this team, about how I felt that we held all of the pieces to have a very successful season and could do quite well, if we wanted to. I also let them know that my biggest fear heading into the season was that we would lose focus on what our objectives were and become a social club (which I told them, I felt we had become). Players spoke about what they wanted for the remainder of the season and the consensus was that we wanted to play the best soccer we could in whatever remained of the season.
Going into this meeting, I had drawn up a contract for the players to pledge themselves to the team for the remainder of the season. I asked those that were committed to playing at their best to sign it in front of their teammates as a sign of their committment to the team and to each other. Every player present, jumped to their feet to sign the contract. As we broke up, I asked them if our deeds would mirror our words or were we just going through the motions? Our next game would be the test for us.
Our next game was against the top team in our division, a team that had only allowed 4 goals all season and had only lost 1 game due to injuries and low numbers. To say that I was concerned going in would have been a huge understatement, but, I have always had a solid belief in these girls and felt that if we would just show up and play as a team, we could at least be in the game.
As we walked across the field, I was getting texts letting me know that our keeper was running late. Great, our back up keeper happens to also be our anchor on our back line. Another starting defender let me know she could not be there due to a hamstring injury while one of our forwards was at the wrong field in another town 3 hrs away. Great way to begin our last game of the season!
The officials held the game up till the last possible moment before blowing the whistle for kick off. The next 90 minutes of soccer will forever be imprinted in my mind and heart. I was treated to some very exceptional soccer and I was able to finally see the team on the pitch that I have seen in my mind all season. The girls put everything that they had into playing as a team with one goal in mind- win this game. I honestly can say, I have never been more proud of any group of players than I am of this team. Deeds and not words when it mattered.
Oh, the final? We won 6-1.
till I see you on the pitch