Five years ago I convinced myself that I could be a youth soccer coach...for a recreational league (that part is key). According to the league philosophy, this was a place for kids to have fun and learn the game of soccer. I was confident that I could handle the crowd control aspect of things, and figured I could gather info on the finer points of the game. For the six and under crowd I was starting with, anything beyond: head away from your own goal and don't use your hands seemed irrelevant. At ten and under, we have now moved a bit past the swarm mentality with twelve legs all trying to kick one ball and/or each other.
I remember our first experience with the coach I'll call the intimidator. He had apparently exercised some mind control over his flock of five year olds. How else could one explain his ability to have them out there in some semblance of positions actually passing the ball. I had kids grabbing a drink from a parent while the ball was in play...at that same kid's foot. I had other players just wandering off the field because they were ready for a break, or looking for snack. I remember jogging alongside a player trying to tie her hair up. Our priorities were so clear, BUT, they were having fun. Even those early years when a coach could be ON the field, unless I was going to take a shot on a five year old goalie, I was a bit unsure what to say to get the results the intimidator was getting.
There was one U6 game where every single one of their players had scored at least once (to our zero), except for one girl. It started to feel as if their fans were thinking we should just let that girl score. Much to the contrary, I started to feel that we were victorious if we held her off. By now I am sure you have some general idea of the intimidator's team's skill. I should mention that my team is not the only one to experience such poundings from them.
There are twelve games each season, and around fourteen teams in each age bracket. Somehow, I have always managed to play the intimidator at least once, and one season three times I believe. Of course it came as no surprise when I got this spring's schedule, and saw that our first game would be against THEM. I will admit right here how high I jumped and "woo-hoo'd" when my mighty Blizzards scored the first goal of the game. I was stunned when it was 1-1 after ten minutes. We had never held them off like that.
Then there were about thirty minutes of our goalies and defense getting stomped (and stumped). We coaches could see the strategy they were using, but couldn't quite explain to our team how to stop it! By some reports they scored eleven times, while others reported five (I love my team). I cannot deny that the intimidator has truly taught his team more than the rules of soccer. He has taught them the art of actually playing soccer. For this, I applaud him.
With about ten minutes left in the game, and with benches only about eight feet apart, he started to tell his players who were within earshot to "just pass the ball around now". Well, now part of the trouble I saw was that I had some players within earshot as well. About a minute later, when he must've thought his peeps didn't get the message, he stepped onto the field--DURING PLAY--and called a little pow-wow to dumb it down. Really? At that point he insulted not only our soccer skills, but our intelligence as well. The ref of course said nothing (as what fourteen year old is going to balk at the intimidator?). Then the pressure to score was really present in the face of a team that was just told something amounting to "play in the grass or pick your nose for a bit here".
My daughter scored, and her friends cheered for her as though it mattered. The reason being, that it DID matter...that is the point afterall...to score a goal...and she did. It didn't matter that it was by no means a winning goal---just A goal...mission accomplished. A new boy to our team was on the bench next to me and said, "I don't know why people are so concerned with keeping score. This is a rec league and is supposed to be for fun. I'm having fun!" I felt like hugging him and telling him he came to the right place...and maybe I had too!