Thoughts on being a high school coach

I’m in my second season as the varsity girl’s coach at a Manhattan school, and a couple things are occurring to me that I thought I’d punch out in case anyone out there has anything to share in return…

The season is one week old, with three weeks of preseason had before that.  We are a private school, so historically commitment and attendance has been a concern, and in some regards is this season.  But we have new things to deal with that we didn’t last season.  Last season I had a roster of 15 girls, which would have been perfect if they’d all shown up at one time…ever.  I traveled to games often with 11, had no goalkeeper to speak of, held practice with 6-8 girls, had no field space, and struggled to build any kind of work ethic or tenacity with in the team.  They just didn’t take pride in their efforts.  This season I have a roster of 23 girls, and for the most part they show up.  They still aren’t the most tenacious group, but there are some who have caught on to the commitment and desire, and who respect the idea of working hard and it’s pay off.  I have a whole host of new girls, both to the team and to the game, many of whom are either freshmen or sophomores.  They don’t really have the internal drive to push themselves in drills, and often kinda half@$$ it through practice, gripe about the harder things they have to do, and constantly complain about what positions I want to use them in if it isn’t the one they had in mind for themselves.  I’ve got more girls than I can play, less pure talent than we need, and still have no regular field space to practice on.

But my biggest issue isn’t really with any of that.  My biggest issue is with myself.

I’ve been playing soccer since I was little, and had both moderate success and crushing failure.  The game has given me a lot, and taken a lot out of me as well.  I love being a coach now because it gives me a chance to be part of the game in a whole different way than I’ve previously been able to.  I think I’m a little bit of an over-thinker to be a high school girl’s coach at a school with a small program, but I’ll take it.  I’m not saying I believe I’d be more successful at a larger school or that I think I’m too “big” for the school I’m at (quite the opposite actually), just that I’m a strategy-junky amongst a group that hasn’t quite gotten that far in their understanding of the game yet.  But I think I have a shallow bag of tricks right now.  As I said, this is my second year, and my third year as a varsity coach over all.  I’ve been working coaching soccer on some level since I was in the 9th grade, but I’m discovering that my knowledge of drills, my ability to run a drill, to find just the right drill for a particular need, and how to build practices so that we’ve worked on basic skills effectively before they’re expected to use them to learn other things…is all still growing.  My practices this year are steps beyond my practices last year, but my preseason practices were all planned to a T, even if they didn’t all go off exactly that way, and now that I’m going more with the flow of what’s needed the practices are less effective I think.  Granted a lot of what I can do is limited by what amount of space I have that day (23 girls in a tiny gym isn’t exactly a recipe for successful practices) but the days I do have a field are below where I want to be both as a team and a coach.  I am still developing the finessed understanding of what it means to be a coach.

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