I want to start by saying, I absolutely love teaching your children about soccer. It is my pleasure and I want you to know I give a sh*&. I have been lucky enough to have been molded by the sport and coaches of all philosophies over the years and I really hope I have a positive impact on your child as we take this journey together. I am not just going through the motions. My intentions are real. I aim to leave a lasting impression. That is so very important to me. When the girls step out on the field on game day and connect their first intentional pass, or mark an opponent because they are hungry to defend their own goal, I know that something I am doing on those work days when I feel there is barely enough time in the day to squeeze a practice in, makes all of this worth it.
However, I have noticed, a lot has changed since I was a kid and I worry about our generation of athletes. Most of whom at the end of the day will end up being regular people who have to learn how to cope with the realities of life. Looking back upon my experience, the differences between then and now are great and from my vantage point, we aren’t going to be mass producing Mia Hamms. Back in the day, when I played sports, I was not handled with kid gloves. There was a very clear winner and loser. Parents knew their place and as a former athlete, so did I. I was challenged physically and emotionally. I heard the words, “good job” sometimes, and “what can you do to be better?” constantly. I hated my coaches but loved them even more. Why? Because I had respect. My singular goal was to be on that field when the whistle blew and I was, and I did not get there because my parents were constantly challenging the decisions of my coaches. I got there because I earned it. It was all me. Huge life lesson.
Funny story. When I came home from my first year at college wider than I was tall #Freshman15, and stepped out on the field with my team from back home that summer, my coach looked at me and said, “start running, and don’t stop until you get back to where you were before you left for school.” (Any teammate reading this right now knows I cleaned this up. He was harsh. But I friggin loved him.) He was right. I was fat and out of shape. I was an athlete. Athletes are supposed to be fit. There were standards. I went off course. My coach told me…THAT WAS HIS JOB. Guess what? I started running, and I didn’t stop and I didn’t go crying to my parents either. I owned it and once again the standard had been set, even higher.
I think if that statement was made nowadays, there may be a coaching position available. There has been a shift within the culture of parents of athletes. And it isn’t something I think is doing any bit of good for our young people. I have to say, very simply, there should be a very thick line between parents and coaches. It should rarely be crossed. When you step in and interfere because you think your child should get to play or you question why we (the coaches) are doing what we are doing, that completely does a disservice to one person, your kid. It perpetuates the idea that in life you don’t need to work for anything, you can say whatever you want and get it in return. That does not mirror what real life looks like. Organized sports are the first taste of reality for young people. Working with a team, being managed by a coach, that parallels a lot of what life is going to be like down the road. Athletes learn about accountability. Sports are humbling. Parents need to understand how their interference can negatively affect the development of a young person and honestly, you need to stay the heck out of it. Young people need to know how to take a little crap once in a while. The field is the perfect place to start. I do however, have some suggestions as to how you can help.
Encourage your child to respect their coach. Remind them that their coach is their coach for a reason. I say it all the time. “Coach knows.” Teach them the value of looking presentable, period. Tuck in your shirts, dammit! Be their parent, not the coach. Sure, some days we may disagree. You may not approve of our choices, and that is completely ok. However, it is not ok to share your disapproval or voice your opinion. I am sorry. That is where the line is drawn. Assist us in teaching OUR kids the value of hard work and dedication and respect through leading by example. It starts at home and takes a village. At the end of the day, we are all on the same team.