Saturday, August 30, 2014

Coaching soccer is more than coaching soccer to me

This is my ninth year coaching soccer for our school team, the fifth as the varsity coach for Heritage. Coaching, for me, is a way to make a deep, long-lasting impression on young men, in a relatively short period of time. The unique way competition impacts people makes me stay in the game, so to speak. I absolutely relish the preparation process required to ready a team for competitive play- especially a team that no one thinks should be good. I like recruiting guys who lack experience, but have the athletic ability, with training, to become solid, contributing players. Like a nerd analyzing a game of Risk, I am constantly scrawling potential line ups and formations on pieces of paper throughout the day.

The value of the context of team sports and competition lies in what is required to congeal and be competitive. Players must develop fitness, skill, and tactics. Individual players are responsible and accountable to their teammates to grow in all areas. Perhaps the most important life lesson from team sports is learning, as a member of a team, to know your role and execute it with full vigor and faithfulness. Playing for a team bears a strong resemblance to being a member of a church.

To become competitive and ready, we have to work hard as a team for weeks. When the season starts, the grind gets increasingly challenging as things shift from the initial physical preparation to a more mental contest. The relentless rhythm of 2-3 games per week goes on for two months. Staying fit, nursing injuries, keeping school grades up, and battling general fatigue, contribute to the character-building exercise the whole team sport experience is about. Over a 12-week period, through the regular flow of game preparation and playing, guys grow close and develop a strong basis for ongoing friendships. I get the opportunity and privilege to spend many hours under intense circumstances with young men who are in the thick of their character development. In most cases, I develop substantive relationships with my players. Often enough I will think I didn’t connect well with a certain player, only to see our relationship grow after they graduate. The coach-player relationship is unique and can be life-shaping. I have had some wonderful, learned, and godly teachers in my years of formal schooling, but for the most part, the men I have leaned on most for counsel and guidance have been my former coaches. It is the task of a coach to assess a player’s ability, help them improve, develop, overcome obstacles, and fulfill their role so they contribute well and enjoy the team sport experience. Being a coach bears a strong resemblance to being a pastor of a church. 

I have always been thankful Redeemer allows me to coach the school team.  It serves as a way I can directly interact with the students of our school.  This year, eight of the players are also members of our church, one is my oldest son, which is pretty cool.  In our four years of official KSHSAA membership, we are 56-13-5.  Not bad for a small, 1A school!


Gerardo, Shellie, Matteo and Lucas said...

Great message. Our 7yr old son plays for Toca FC and his coach mentioned your name the other day. He had great things to say about you. As a volunteer parent coach myself, I am glad to see posts like this. Thank you for all you do and best of luck this season!

Woody Woodward said...

Tony, you are mighty coach for me and a great one to lead at what ever team you are mentoring!