So my first high school soccer season as a coach has ended. Let me just say, I learned a lot. I learned a lot about soccer, teaching, people, and life in general.
The biggest point I emphasized for my team was that we would never get outworked. Our work rate would always be higher than the opponent. I made a big deal about having a good work ethic and putting forth effort. And for the most part, I think we did a good job of maintaining a solid work ethic. I would say that only in two games throughout the season did the other team outwork us. And believe me, I let my boys know how frustrated I was when it happened. But there were many times when they made me proud of their work rate. I remember several occasions when the opponent’s coach would even yell at his team, “They are out working us right now.” I would smile so big inside when that would happen. I guess my deal with work ethic is it’s something that no one can take from you, ever. No matter what happens in life and no matter how hard things get, no one can take away your work ethic. A strong work ethic is something that can be carried into everything you do in life – your school work, your job, your family, anything. And people with a good work ethic end up doing something special with their lives.
As the JV coach I found my scale for success changing as the season went on. I started out the season telling the boys that we would go undefeated. That goal ended in game 2. But as the season continued I started to think more about the future of the program and how success could be measured in more than just wins and losses for this team. I really started to focus more on player development and preparing them for the Varsity level (where wins and losses really do matter). Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted to win every game and I would still lose sleep after losses. But when it came to practice and training, I prepared practice plans to equip the players for the next few years and not just the next game. There are some coaches at the high school level that play a certain style of play that ‘can’ win games (especially at the JV level), but that style doesn’t prepare the players for the next level. It is very tempting to fall into this style to win, but I resisted. I really hope it pays off in future seasons.
I also started to realize that there has to be a balance between preparing for the future and maintaining success in the current season. It’s true that if you sacrifice too many wins in the ‘now’ for wins in the ‘future’ you can hurt team morale and kill the kids’ spirit.
One other thing I learned from coaching this season is that you can gain a lot from a win, but you can gain even more from a loss. Losing gives you this feeling that can only be described as a sickness that doesn’t heal until you get to redeem yourself in the next game. At least it is that way to competitive people. The thing about sports is that one team has to lose…every time. So no matter what, one team is left feeling that way. And that feeling is what drives you to work harder and do everything possible to keep from feeling that way next time. The good news though is that in sports you always have that next time to redeem yourself. It’s not like you are ever really playing your last game. You always get another opportunity to come back and make it right next time. Whether it be next week, next season, next year, whatever…there is always another chance. Man, I love sports.