Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Word of Explanation

I'm getting the feeling from the response to my last post that I've sold myself as a different kind of person than I am.

I love kids.

And many of you know that. But I have to be clear on one point. As a coach, if I have six kids on the field and six sitting, the six that are on the field need to be playing to the best of their ability. I don't mean to say they should be the best in the league, and not even the best they can be. But they better be out there trying and paying attention. Or they will be pulled out until they get that.

I'm not going to be responsible for scarring kids for life, and if you ask any parent whose kid is on my team, you would not get one of them saying that I'm being unfair in any way. I had one parent observe that his kid hadn't played in a quarter, but one kid has to sit every quarter of a game, and that has to cycle through every kid in my team. The only criticism you could level, and one that would fall on deaf ears, is that I don't make my best players sit out.

A game is about having fun. On that we all agree. Where people diverge is on what the definition of fun is. Fun for me is hard play, and yes, winning. Winning is fun. There I said it. Winning is FUN. Losing is not fun. The trick is balancing a winning strategy while spreading the play time around to all the kids involved.

So, to be clear, I have several players on my team that have absolutely no soccer skills. They can't kick, pass, stop a ball or get in someones way. They simply do not exist on the soccer field. They get equal playing time, and when they make a play, any play, coach Scott is out there letting them know.

But, I'll admit that I did want to have an assembly of kids that could really play the game, mostly so that my son could know what it was like to be on a team of crackerjacks. I still remember when I was a kid and won a little league championship. The feeling was beyond description, and it lasts a lifetime. And it doesn't happen to everyone, and maybe I'm hopping on that ride too soon. But I promise that I'm not taking it out on the kids, that they are having fun, and I would rather shoot myself through the head than to give them a bad experience of the scarring variety.

We've all had them. I'll never forget mine, and I won't be responsible for dishing them out. I still want to win my games. I give it my all just like I want my kids to give me theirs.


jenbeauty said...

Yep I will agree winning is fun!

Balancing out the good and the not so good sometimes is so very difficult. I feel your pain Scott, coaching is not easy. For me its about their safety, fun, and skills. I hate choas and let me tell you my son's T-Ball games, complete and utter choas.

I am not sure about some of these other parents. I don't want to seem harsh either, but if my son is not paying attention, I let him know. Same with my daugther, but both learned under my husband and I while we coached softball. You must pay attention 1. so as not to get hurt and 2. so you can learn the game and play better!

Throwing rocks, not listening to the coach, playing swords with the bats, climbing the fence, all unacceptable to me. Coaches can be firm and yet have the kids have fun and like them. I was able to balance it all. How I know that I did a good daugther said at the beginning of this season how boring her coaches are and what fun she had with me. I was strict, but I was also fun. And guess what, it made the winning all that much sweeter!

Beth said...

I don't think I misunderstood you. Did I sound harsh? I hope not. I just wonder if my son's best ever seemed like shit to jocks and jockettes.

Not paying attention, not listening to the coach, messing around, etc., was never and still is not acceptable. As an a former unathletic child though, I'll tell you, my bizarre behavior in gym class (being the class clown) was a way of masking my total embarrassment.

It's a slippery slope, no?

Beth said...

As a former *

(trying to learn to re-read)

Scott said...

Jen - Kids need to be directed because their attention is so easily diverted, and they appreciate a hard hand when it comes to team sports, and even at home. That can be taken too far of course.

Beth - No, not too harsh at all. I'm just making sure nobody misunderstands me. I don't want to come off as a hard ass that would use kids to further my private agenda. There are coaches that do it. In fact, the coach I am talking about does just that. No worries. Like I said, I'm just making sure.

Jeff Somes said...

I remember being on Little League baseball as a kid. I have the same talent for athletics as, say, a limbless elephant, but damn, I wanted to play baseball. I totally sucked, but I wanted to get out there and just run around and shag flies and strike out and slide into bases sometimes.

My coach and fellow players did not share my joy, however, and basically viewed me and my defective play as a disease on the game. On the one hand, I can understand--they wanted to win, and I sucked. On the other hand, I remember thinking "It's fucking *little league*".

I learned a valuable lesson: I have the athletic ability of a drunk, so why not drink?

Alan said...

Dang, Jeff Somes! I hope you don't still reside in a bottle because of them folks!

Meanwhile, I Heart Coach Scott. More than a rational part of me wishes I were eleven years old and on your team. I swear to God. There's no doubt I'd be a better male if I'd have been raised with a dude like you in my life.

You're like my personal Jack London.

Toni Anderson said...

Scott, I bet you are an excellent coach! Beats my beloved teaching sliding tackles and confusing the wee mites with calling it a pitch and a football :)

jenbeauty said...

Jeff Somes....give me a kid with heart any day that can't play, opposed to one who just sites there!

Scott said...

We've had our kids in a few of different leagues. Basketball, soccer, dance, and now softball. We like coaches who push the kids to play the right way. I'd take a coach like you that expects the kids to play the right way over some of these other coaches we've had who show a kid what to do, then when they watch the kid something completely different ten seconds later, they don't say a word. That used to really drive me nuts.

Anyway, don't change a thing. The object of the game is to win. If no one ever kept scores, sports would die out in a short time.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

I think I would be a terrible little league manager.

There would be a lot of unnecessary screaming at kids who were rubbish.

"You're worthless! You're less than nothing! What's keeping you here? Why don't you just QUIT?!!?!?"

The good players would be heaped in praise, and the bad one's humiliated.

Any complaints from the parents? Welcome to the real world, Mom. The sooner they learn, the better.


Scott said...

Jeff - We had a kid just like you are describing yourself on my little league team. When the ball came to him, it was an automatic homerun to whoever hit it. Our pitching was great, and he played in right field, where the ball hardly ever went. But, in our championship game, with us one ahead and one person on, they hit a pop fly right to him. And wouldn't you know that in all his time playing outfield, that was the only ball he ever caught.

He might of sucked eggs at baseball, but I'm betting he still remembers that moment to this day.

Alan - Wow, that's a huge compliment. Thanks.

Toni - I'd say I'm an ok coach at this point. I'm still figuring out how to do it. It's funny though, one of the parents told me that her little girl is really getting into the game, having a good time and is excited to play.

Jen - Good point. Excellent point. If the kids are trying, what more can you ask for? That reminds me of a story. I'll post it today.

Scott - Thanks, man. You have to teach the kids that the goal is to win. What goes with that is taking defeat gracefully as well, but winning is always the goal. Many disagree with that, but personally, when I play someone at anything and I know they are laying off, it pisses me off. How the hell am I supposed to get better if I'm not getting the competition's best?

Toast - I think you would make an excellent (American) football coach.