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"No lines, No laps, No Lectures" - Karl Dewazien

 Author Gerald Steele

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The Joy of Coaching
 By Gerald Steele
St. Thomas Aquinas stated that man’s greatest achievement is joy. I’m sure Tommy boy wasn’t talking about coaching youth soccer but the feeling that courses through my veins when I’m working with kids seems an awful lot like what was being referred to by the wise, old Dominican lad.

I consider myself very lucky in that I spent several years studying at the National Coaching Institute under fine people like Olympic Track & Field Andy Higgins. Maybe I always had it in me but while I was there I came to the full realization that working with kids is a joy in itself. Coaching is not about soccer but about the children. It is about their need for fun, their laughter, their joy in simply kicking a ball. And if I can help them through the vehicle that is soccer to grow and develop then that is a great bonus.
 
To coach children is, for me, a privilege and a tremendously exciting challenge.

I used to play a lot of soccer. I was kind of OK as a player. I went into coaching partly because I didn’t like the coaching that I was observing. I also felt that as a player I had something special to give the children. It took me several years to become fully aware that coaching children is not something defined by one’s ability to play the game but rather by one’s ability to enjoy children and one’s willingness to work with the kids at the level at which they can excel. This is a tough place to get to for many coaches.
I see many young coaches, who often have been decent players but can no longer play at the level that they feel their talents deserve. They want to maintain contact with the sport. They do so by ‘coaching’ children. But there is a problem. They are not ready to be coaches.
 
In their minds they really haven’t left the playing side of the game behind. They really want to play. So convinced are they of the great contribution that they have to make to our children’s development that they don’t even bother to educate themselves as to the meaning of coaching children. They aren’t aware of, far less understand, the basic truths that children must be engaged, they want competition, they want intensity, they want to be active and most of all they want to have fun.
 
Instead, these frustrated players often, having skimmed through a couple of ‘how-to’ books, talked to their peers or remembered some drills, subject our children to tedious, mind numbing, ever-lasting, boring routines and drills. If these fellows want to be real coaches to our children then they must get beyond their own fantasies and, instead, address the needs of the children. If they do so I’m sure that they will come to experience the true joy of coaching children.
 
Gerald Steele
FUNdamental Soccer Session Attendee
Toronto, Canada June 2011

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It’s Serious… But It Can Be Very Funny
By Gerald Steele
 
Coaching children is, for me, an extremely serious business. I look upon it as a privilege to work with children and as such I always try to accord them the utmost respect. Not that I go about with a glum, morose expression on the old countenance.
 
No, on the contrary I like to think that I am for much the most part a very jolly, funny coach. Mind you, to liberally paraphrase good old Abe Lincoln, ‘… you can get most of the kids laughing most of the time but you can’t get all of the kids laughing all of the time…”.
 
I’m well organized; I have, I feel, a very solid coaching philosophy; I am well versed from a technical, theory and game-knowledge point of view. But, I also know that children need engagement, enthusiasm and humour from their coaches.
 
Over the last few months I’ve been working with two and three year olds in a ‘Soccer for Toddlers Program’.  It’s great fun. They’re lovely and by turns happy, crying, outgoing, clinging to mummy, energetic, tired, excited and on and on.
 
I like to think that I’m very good with them. Often I’ll get down to their level. They are so small that that basically means getting down on all fours. “So, how are all my beautiful babies today? Are we going to have a grand old time kicking the ball and scoring goals and playing ‘What Time is it Mr. Wolf?’?”
 
Well that’s all very well and nice’n’cute but recently one of these three year old toddlers didn’t take kindly to being referred to as a baby. So much so that he approached my son, James, who was helping me on that occasion. James is 21 years of age, 6’-3” and about to graduate from university with an Honours degree in philosophy.
 
The three year old looked up at James, the whole length of him, and boldly informed James that, “We’re not babies you know.”
 
James drawing on his wisdom and wit accrued from years of studying Sartre, Kierkegaard and Camus responded most seriously, “Well, that’s just as well ‘cause babies aren’t allowed to play soccer.”
 
At which point the youngster turned and marched away, chest puffed out having established his seniority.
 
Of course, I smiled when I overheard this brief, humorous exchange. But, more than that the image that immediately was conjured in my mind was that of lots of wee babies sitting on the sidelines, nappies and all, crying their eyes out because they weren’t allowed to play soccer.
 
What a great laugh it is to work with children… but serious!
 
Gerald Steele
FUNdamental Soccer Session Attendee
Toronto, Canada June 2011
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