The Good Side of the Field
By Tyler Isaacson, founder of youthsoccer101.com.
I occasionally hear comments made behind my back while I am coaching. I almost never turn around and try to keep my eyes on the field. My wife hears things more often than I do because she is generally on the other side of the field, with the parents, many of whom don’t know who she is. Believe it or not, I even receive emails and text messages with “ideas” about who should be playing where and who should be on the bench. Do they understand I am a volunteer and I am doing this for the kids? I decided to write a little note to the parents to give them my side of the story.
Dear All the Parents of the Players I Have Coached,
First, you need to know how I got into coaching. I received an email from one of the leaders of my local sports organization, stating that my son would not have a team to play on unless someone stepped up to be the coach. It is a real struggle to find volunteer coaches these days, and I inquired about how many hours it would take a week to do this. After a few phone conversations with the age group coordinator, we figured on between three and five hours a week, which included a one-hour practice and a one-hour game on the weekend. I figured in some travel time, ice cream runs with the players and a few miscellaneous things to get to the max of five hours a week. That’s all? The way I looked at it, this commitment would really only occupy a couple hours on two days a week. Eliminate one show or sporting event on TV and this should not be a problem. This was rec., how hard could it be?
I jumped in with both feet without much of an idea of what I was doing. It was a little crazy the first few weeks getting to know the players and their parents. After a while, I was really enjoying this volunteer coaching thing, and there were tools available for me to do a pretty good job. I came prepared for practice with a plan that was age appropriate, I communicated with the team parents with an online scheduling program, and I kept things really fun. The players seemed to enjoy themselves.
Fast forward to a few years later, and I hear directly from a 10-year-old’s mouth, “My mom said you don’t know what you are doing.” I was shocked and caught totally off guard. My first reaction was to hunt down this woman and give her an ear full.
“Hey lady, I am the one who stepped up a few years back to save this team, I leave work an hour early to get here on time, I am not retired, I have other children just like you….” I could go on and on. I finished out the practice and as time went by, my anger started to subside.
After thinking back on the last couple of years of coaching, yeah, I make mistakes, and we don’t win all our games, but I know full well that the players I coach are having fun, learning the game and progressing nicely. I even get to spend an extra three to five hours a week with my child and his friends at practices and games. I help support the local community by volunteering for the club.
This letter is for all the volunteers out there who bust their butts to do the best they can for the kids. When you hear negative parents on the sidelines, just take a look at the smiling faces around you and realize how lucky you are to be on this side of the field. For those who are reading this and have not made it to this side of the field — there is plenty of room. Volunteer today, you can find the time!
Tyler Isaacson is a club president, travel coach, recreation coach, youth player, college player and dad. He has 30 years of playing and coaching experience. He is the founder of youthsoccer101.com a leader in on-line coaching education used by 50K coaches.