I coach a couple of soccer teams and have learned a lot about leadership over the past few years.
My older team are a bunch of high schoolers. Most are in 9th grade and a couple in 10th. I can be myself with them more so than the younger kids. I don’t curse on purpose but if one slips out, I am not worried about getting an email from an angry parent. They are skilled and understand the game and at this point in their careers, my coaching is more guiding them back to what they already know rather than teaching them something new. I think of myself as the bumpers on a kids bowling alley. I really enjoy the time I spend with this group as they share stories about their day while we stretch before practice.
My other team is a bunch of 13 year olds who are testing limits and challenging authority constantly. I used to get mad at them and felt like too much of my time was going into correcting behavior as well as playing mistakes. I was spending too much time on fixing problems instead of celebrating successes.
This year I finally learned that constant correction creates an environment in which everyone is riding at the red line all of the time. I was ready to pounce on problems which caused stress to the children; even to those who were not involved.
As I began to mellow out while still maintaining order, I saw improvements in behavior. I saw attitudes improving an the soccer itself also improved.
Maybe shouldn’t have taken 10 years to learn how to become a better coach but, all of the lessons learned along the way brought me to this point where I am content.
Negativity on a team starts at the top. Be sure to focus on the positives especially during a season when there might not be a lot to celebrate. Focus on individual plays and players who are exceeding their previous abilities and contributing to the team.
Encourage players to support each other when mistakes are made and you will see player confidence grow.
The definition of failure as a parent or coach is when a player makes a mistake and looks to the sideline in anticipation of the commentary.
When we smother the kids with kindness we will build better teammates, players, and young adults.