The 2015 season will represent my 5th season as the head coach of the varsity girls’ soccer program at the Manhattan school that I teach at. I’ve learned the ropes of coaching largely on the fly as I’ve never really been an assistant anywhere. My previous coaching experience has been that of a counselor at soccer camps of various ages, from 3rd – 12th grade, across various years, and one season of co-coaching a varsity coed team in the DC beltway area.
While I think I’ve done reasonably well so far and picked up what I needed quickly, I know I have a long way to go to reach a level that I’m genuinely happy with. I’ve decided to spend some time in the coming season reflecting on the diversity of the moving parts that make up a team, as well as my own role as the facilitator of the growth of the program
First, a little background on the program I run. The school is a private school in Manhattan. It’s a preK-12 school with about 650 students total, about 250 of which make up the high school. They have no sports facilities of their own aside from a very tiny gym in the high school building, but rent gym space from a local church at a nearby site, and use local public fields for outdoor sports. These public fields require permits for use.
The girls’ varsity soccer team is now eight years old as of the completion of the 2014 season. The previous four seasons were all lead by the same coach, but the team was not in a league, so each season was comprised of around eight or so games against an ever changing group of schools. Before the girls got their own team the school had a coed team for a few years, and before that it was strictly a boys team. The only championship in school history was won by a boys team in the early 90s. We compete in a small league that is comprised of private schools in the New York City area, most of which are in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
I typically have around 20 girls each season, although my first season was less than 15. The commitment level was lower then, and things like practice and preseason were more optional than mandatory.
In the last four years we, meaning the girls that have joined the program in that time and I both, have turned the entire tenor of the team around. Whereas I was lucky to get seven or eight players out for the first week of preseason in the past, this season we had 17 girls, with the other three joining us in the second week. Practice attendance has risen from about 60% to about 90%, with almost a quarter of the team attending every practice. Given that I’m working with girls who are under tremendous pressure to also be successful students, and who have numerous commitments in a school that offers them a tremendous number of opportunities, I’m pleased.