I know it has been a while, but I am back with a familiar topic. That’s right, another one on sports and kids. I guess because it’s a big part of our life right now. It was always a big part of mine growing up, too. I loved sports growing up and I was pretty good as well. However, I ended my organizational/competitive sports “career” when I was fourteen or fifteen. The enjoyment I have with my son in soccer right now is great. It is, however, bringing up the past and some regrets I have about quitting.
I have been an assistant coach for Nolan’s soccer team for five seasons now. The team recently made the switch from outdoor to indoor soccer league for several reasons. First off, the indoor program is a little more competitive and we felt the kids would learn more skills that they could use for both field and indoor soccer. Second, we’re losing half the team because they have to move up to the next age bracket in spring. The head coach kept the core group of boys that has been together for five or more seasons and moved to the indoor league, which basically covers the entire year except the fall season.
Let me tell you, the indoor league is very exciting to be a part of and to watch. Our first game displayed how competitive this league is: a club team that has obviously played together a long time slaughtered us. The competitive nature of this league is the main reason the head coach made the switch; he wants his two boys to play in a competitive league. Try outs have come and gone and it looks like they are going to be on the team come fall. This brings up several questions I’m contemplating at the moment.
First of all, I don’t think that Nolan is quite ready to move to the hardcore competitive league yet. Second, I’m not sure if I will be able to reassemble the remaining Green Dragons for the fall outdoor league and other seasons if the coach permanently moves the competitive league. Third, I do really want to stick with the other coach and boys because of our history and experience together, and the boys are really starting to gel with each other. All of this is just running together in my head. I want to make the right decision for Nolan
Let my briefly share my history. I played soccer from the first grade until I quit at fifteen. I developed into a good player and was even scouted by a competitive team that an older friend of mine played on. The coach contacted me and asked me to play for the Cougars. I told him that my current coach would be retiring at the end of the next season and that I wanted to play with him until he did retire and then I would join. I quit after my coach retired and I never played again. During this time I was just starting high school. I made the football team and played outside linebacker. I started every game that first season and started training for the next season, but quit the team due to an obnoxious coach (more on that in a minute). I also never bothered to show up for the soccer tryouts that I had signed up for.
In my situation, my family never pushed me to play sports; they let me do it if I wanted to. I continued to play growing up because it was fun and I was good. I wasn’t a “jock;” I was just an athletic kid who enjoyed sports. I continued to play sports in high school, and my school was very competitive in all areas, especially sports. I didn’t look, dress, talk, or act like a “jock.” I listened to different music, wore different clothes and had longer hair than most of my teammates. I got along fine on my team until year two training came around. The line coach (not even my regular coach) liked to constantly tease me about my hair and clothes during practice. I had better things to do than be made fun of by an overweight, loudmouthed coach (yes, I’m talking about you Coach Tate!) That was it; I was done and that was fine by me. My junior year that team went on to take the CCS Division I title. Senior year they took runner up but still hold the title for the best record of all time at Bellarmine College Prep. Twenty years later, do I have some regrets? Sure. It was fun watching and rooting them on, but it would have been more fun being on the field.
Now I question myself about what I am doing with Nolan. Am I pushing him too hard? Am I not pushing him enough? Am I being too protective or not protective enough? Am I just trying to push him so he doesn’t miss out like I did? I think the answer is that I am doing the right thing. Of course I want him to go as far as he can and be a super star all through high school, but that may not be what he wants to do. So what will I do? Continue to be his coach and provide all the opportunities I can as long as he wants them. I think my parents did it best; they just supported me and provided the opportunities to play. They always encouraged me to play but they didn’t force me to. I know I need to keep it all in balance so I do not push him too hard and burn him out. I think the worst thing that could happen to a kid is to lose the passion for the game, not missing out on the chance to play in the championship game.
Now that I have “talked” it out, would I have changed anything? The only thing I would have done differently is shown up for the soccer tryouts in high school, who knows…
– Kevin Williams
VP & Dad