So our season has drawn to a close. We have the gear stowed, uniforms are put away and the paint is almost faded away on the pitch. Players are calling saying how they are sad it is over and parents are glad of the break for the time being. As a coach, it gives me a little bit of time to reflect on how things went during the season, how things ended and what I could have done differently to better prepare players for their future on and off the pitch.
This season was interesting, challenging and very rewarding in a lot of different areas. It was interesting to watch the girls come together as a team and share common goals, and help each other work through the challenges they all faced as players and as a team. The challenges were many, from the disparity of talent to our schedule of games, to time demands placed upon individuals. The rewards were numerous; from watching how we went from low skill sets to being comfortable possessing the ball, from moving from a very direct manner of play to being able to execute build up play, from shying away from contact to playing through contact, from conceding too much space to seeing where we could eliminate space and time in our play.My biggest reward was simply watching the girls go out and play the game they love and seeing the hunger in their eyes to improve and be better next time they got the chance to play.
We began our season with my asking the girls what they wanted out of their time on the pitch this year. Their answer was to be one of the most difficult challenges I faced in many years. They did not say that they wanted to win X number of games, nor did they single out a particular opponent to win against. No, their main goal for the season was 5 words- “We want to be better!” As a coach, these are the words we long to hear our players utter, but it is one thing to say the words, it is another to set process goals to make them a reality.
We decided that we needed 3 things to make our goal happen:
1. Meaningful Training Sessions- we needed every opportunity to have real application to our game. We did not do many fun Fridays this season, but made use of every day on the training pitch to improve.
2. Clarity of Purpose and Committment to ourselves since we are a team, we needed to understand and embrace the simple fact that we are only as strong as our weakest link. We must lift each other up and motivate one another always and be fully invested in what we hope to achieve.
3. To use every game as a measuring stick for where we are and where we want to be- our performance in every match was our way of knowing where we struggle and what we need to work on. Only by helping everyone on our side, will we reach our goal of being better.
Our early games were not very fun to watch and possibly even harder to play from the players standpoint. But, the take away from each of those games was valuable and had merit for us as a means to break down our game into things we could work on. As our season went on, we continued to show improvement every time out on the pitch. We had a 5 or 6 game winning streak before we ran into our biggest hurdle of the season- 10 games in 10 days. Put simply, it was more than both their bodies and their mental focus could handle. To have expected them to be able to perform at the same level we had before heading into that 10 game stretch was unrealistic in my mind.
So, we finished up in a hard place but, the team had reached its goal- I feel they were each much better players at the end than they were at the beginning, that the team had improved greatly in their time together and that we learned how to be a team. My biggest hope is that each one of them was inspired by their own performance and the fire is now firmly ignited and they will continue to play and learn beyond their H.S. soccer season.
“We want to be better”, as I look in the mirror, I hope I am up to the challenge these young ladies have set before me as I know I have a long way to go to help them reach their goals in the future.
till I see you on the pitch