Something I have really learned about myself since I retired from the Air Force was that I love to mentor people. I did do a lot of mentoring in the Air Force, but not the same way I do now, especially with my soccer team.
I was relieved to get so many of my players back because I know I can teach them so much about soccer and build on what they already know from last season. I worked hard to try and teach them about the game and to see the whole field and game, and not just the ball. They are still young enough that most of them gravitate to the ball and it ends up being a huge cluster of kids kicking at the ball. If the ball is moving and they are actually passing to each other, it is slightly better and they will mostly spread themselves. We are working on it.
Since I did get so many players back, I have decided to make some of them captains for the season. I have one for the forwards, one for midfielders, and two for defense/goalie. I was able to talk to two of them after practice this week and both were very excited. I emailed all of their parents, who wrote back that they were excited. It’s not that I am catering to great players either. There’s something special about each of these children that I am trying to develop.
L.D. is a great player. He is tenacious with the ball, like nothing I have ever seen at this age. He gets to the ball wherever it is on the field, he’s never tired, and he makes it all look really easy. He complains every time I sub him out because he’s just never tired. He can score, defend, and even play goalie. He’s goofy though. He purposely gets himself caught in the net and falls down with his legs all entwined in it. He constantly needs help to get out of there. He throws grass at other players for fun. During games, he does support teammates and he communicates well on the field.
E is a solid forward. He’s a bigger kid but he can kick the ball hard from far away and sometimes score way out. He’s one of the very few at this age who can actually get a corner kick all the way to the front of the goal. He plows through the defense easily and scores often. He complains when he gets pulled out but you can tell when he’s exhausted. He puts a ton of pressure on himself to score and gets frustrated when he gets double teamed by the defense. But at our first practice, he was able to create and verbalize a good offensive strategy when he was on offense. His offensive lines did really well. They scored almost every time. He’s been working on shot placement too. Every shot he made at practice was exactly where I want to see them aiming. I have a feeling that the added responsibility of being an offensive captain will help him with the complaining and whining. I think it’ll help him grow up a bit.
L.M. plays goalie, defense, and sometimes a midfielder that hangs back on defense. This kid is all about defense and protecting the goal. He’s average as goalie, superb as a defense player and not my favorite to play at midfield. His attitude on the sideline is where his strengths lie. No matter how much we lost by, he never gave up. He always had the “put me in now coach” mentality and never gave up. He cheered other players on and had a good attitude no matter how wet and cold it was. This kid is a real leader on and off the field. i almost wouldn’t care if he sucked at all the positions because he just has this way about him that pulls up everyone on the sideline. He’s a great kid and he will be very successful in life in general.
T is a special case. He told me at the very first practice last season that he likes to win but he doesn’t like to work hard. He will complain constantly at practice. He once plopped himself down behind the goal and wouldn’t practice because his butt hurt. He couldn’t tell me why, just that his butt hurt and playing soccer made it worse. Fine. Sit behind the goal. But during games, he plays defense like no other kid on that team. He’s like a mosquito that won’t leave you alone. He gets the ball every single time. He kicks it out of our territory and gets it to our offense. Every time. He goes into this beast mode in games that I wish I saw more of at practice. I made him a captain because of his play during games, but because I think the added responsibility will toughen him up just a bit and make him work harder to set a good example for the rest of the team. He also told me once that he wanted to try offense. This was huge because he has also said that he only plays defense because he doesn’t want to run too much. He ran like a mad man on offense and even scored a goal. He was so proud of himself. He did change his attitude a bit after that. He will do great things this season.
I have this amazing ability to see people exactly how they are and what they can be, even children. And I know that I can also support these kids and help them get there. I want to help all of them because I care. They all have something to offer this world. I am honored to be able to coach them and impact them in some way, which is hopefully a good way!