We are now at the two-week break for the two developing high performance youth soccer teams that I coach. That means we’ve played ten league games and had 97 training session (109 in total for the younger team) since it all began over six months ago. As such, it seems like a good place and a good time to look directly at myself and ask the following question:
Have I effected positive change in the players I coach?
Obviously as a coach that is my job after all – to help players improve. So I’ve spent the last ninety minutes reading through my own journal entries that I write after every practice and game all the way back to our first session of 2015. And have I effected positive change up to this point? The answer: yes, but…
Yes, I’ve given the players a more balanced learning environment by providing content from all four corners of development but it hasn’t always been as valued as I’d envisioned it would be. Technical and tactical development still holds top spot in most parents’ and players’ minds. It’s also what I’m better at instructing and so I know I have to continue to present content from those lesser used corners in order to get better at coaching them. In doing so I hope to have people see their importance.
Yes, I’ve given the players more individual development than I’ve ever done before but it’s still not as much as I’d promised to provide. Tied in with the 4-corner approach, I’ve worked with each player and her parents to go beyond the standard weekly training content and work personally on improving areas of weakness through the setting and pursuit of appropriate goals. The extra time it has taken to deliver this piece has astounded me. The plan had been to have two assistant coaches per team working with me. In doing so, I’d have plenty more time to conduct one-on-one work with each of the 34 players I’m currently coaching. Unfortunately, the Club was not able to make that happen and so I’ve had to do more of the team coaching then I’d originally intended.
Yes, the players have improved in their skills but there are a number of areas where they have fallen behind or haven’t improved much at all. These girls have become better dribblers (where before many would have chosen only ever to pass the ball) and they are now becoming more proficient at using both their dominant and non-dominant feet. They are willing to shoot more now than before and they’ve become better at defending one versus one. These improvements in important areas seem to get overshadowed though by the fact that their passing and control of the ball is not as strong as it should be. I feel that lack seems to get noticed more than the other gains. Again, I see more balanced players now but maybe I should have just continued to add to what they were already good at. We’re back to working on passing and receiving now so hopefully it’s not too little too late.
Yes, the teams have improved in their performances but still seem to be struggling compared to last season. Each of the two teams have a core of players that were together as a team last year. I don’t know for certain what their records were but I get the feeling that where we are now is no where near where each was this time last year. I know the overall playing style and philosophy I’ve brought forth is a challenging one to implement. However, I believe it to be a reflection of the modern women’s game and think it vitally important to teach the players. In other words, it’s a long-term approach that may not always bear fruit in the short-term. When we’ve performed well, we’ve performed quite well but when we’ve not been able to follow the game plan, we’ve been very poor. The consistency will come but in some ways I’m sure people wonder why I just couldn’t have taken a more pragmatic, middle of the road philosophy instead of this high ideals one.
Yes, the training sessions have gotten more intense and involved more hard work than earlier on but it’s not been enough and it’s been too late in coming. I wanted these players to take as much responsibility as possible for their own development. I wanted them to see and understand that learning is not something that happens to them but something they do for themselves. That is, you have to take an active role in your learning. You have to be engaged and curious, not sit back and wait for things to happen to you or for you. I wanted to release that responsibility gradually over time but it seems that I released too much too soon. I also waited too long to reign back in the control and direction the girls were expecting from me. It’s a shame really this one. It makes me feel very sad. I know the kids are capable of doing more but quite honestly the education system has made its mark on them. Many have gotten into the habit of believing that learning is a passive exercise – something that happens to you and that learning is something that only occurs ten months of the year, Monday to Friday. Thanks to school, I think they also have come to believe that learning is all about the content – what needs to be learned – instead of skills (how to learn). Bottom line: good learners (those with the skills) can learn pretty much anything they want (the content).
And finally, yes I’ve improved as a coach myself in these last number of months – probably more than I ever have before in the same period of time but it’s still not enough. It’s not enough because I haven’t effected as much positive change as I could have; as I should have. Could have. Should have. I hate those statements. They smack of regret and disappointment. They’re things I lecture players about not letting happen to them. We still have three months to go and more than half of our league season to play. So the goal at this point is not to sit and feel bad about what I didn’t get done. The goal is to learn from what has and hasn’t happened – to take an active role in my own learning – and continue to effect positive change in myself so that I may be able to do the same thing for the players I coach.
Never happy with the status quo. Always striving for more.
Next post Saturday, August 8th.