WHEN COACHING BECOMES YOUR JOB - REFLECTION ON MY FIRST YEAR. part 1
It has been more than a year since I became full time soccer coach and coaching is my only job (in addition to running SIQ Academy). Before that I was full time research scientist in hospital in Colorado (in addition to coaching at Rapids Development Academy and was running SIQ). Now soccer is the only thing I do so I want to reflect little bit on it.
1. AREA Coaching in California is very different than in Colorado! Not just because the level of competition is very high (just look at the standings in our group - 5 of 6 bottom teams all have 6 wins - you will not find anything like this in other groups). Also the demographic and culture are very different. Here it is heavily Latino population (on my team I have 5 non Latino players out of 18) which literally eats, briefs and (excuse me) shits soccer (both players and parents). It is very different atmosphere which has its good and bad sides. For majority of players soccer is not #1 but #0 thing in their lives - school, friends etc are way behind. So when player doesn't play and sits on the bench - it is way more serious than just unhappy parent! It is really serious and you have to be very careful on this issue (and at this age I don't do subs just for the sake of playing time). Losing games is not just bad luck - it is unqualified coach, bad players, weak club etc. Nobody is interested in your opinion and no excuses accepted! (now imagine how I felt when in first half of the season my team won only 3 games out of 12)
2. AGE GROUP. Coaching 12 years old kids is not the same as coaching 17 years old - in fact it is very different! At least on DA level in California. I think it is safe to say that in Colorado I was pretty successful coach - my teams were winning a lot and played decent style of soccer. All I did is organized my players in specific positions, showed them basic principles of possession soccer (stay in your position, receive across the body, look to switch the point of attack, how to get open) - considering that I had some very good players this was enough to have success at U12 and younger age groups. At U17 DA level it is simply not enough as every team is well organized defensively, puts a lot of pressure and has quality players. Success is in details and the efficiency with which you deliver these details to players and how much they buy into it! For 17 years old boy to buy into your vision is not easy, it is especially not easy when the team is losing. And details are SO IMPORTANT that it looks like coach tries to pick on players all the time and not to teach him! Now I have to learn how I approach each individual player as all my corrections and coaching points are useless unless the player understands them, agrees with them and tries to change his habits! On my opinion at age 17 bad habits kill players - very hard to change them as the same habits worked just fine all the time before! Only now I really started to appreciate all psychology, coaching methodology and player approach talks I had during all my soccer licences courses!! Before I thought it is a waste of time as I didn't need this stuff - I tell 12 years old boys to do something and they do it without any questions! Not the case now!!
3. FAILURE IS IMPORTANT AND LEARNING TAKES TIME. When I was coaching Rapids U12 DA at the end of the season I asked if I can try to coach older age groups and I wrote "I want to see at what stage I will fail"... well, I didn't have to wait too long! Three wins and one tie in 12 games is a failure. On top of that we didn't play anything similar to the way I would like us to play. Now things are getting slightly better (only slightly!) and I can see how everything what happened makes sense! I've been learning a lot from other coaches at the club (we are very small club - no teams besides DA, so total 6 teams and 4 staff coaches including myself) on how to approach training, how to prepare to opponent, how do not overwhelm players with information etc. I also learned that patience is key (both for players and coach) and that learning takes time. And of course when the team is brand new (very few players played on the same team last year) it takes more time. And one thing that coaches never have is TIME! To have vision and know how to teach it to players is absolutely required from any coach who takes it seriously but it is definitely not enough for success!! So much work needs to be done outside of training!
I have more reflections on my first year as full time coach but I will save it for next time!! I will try to keep writing at least once every two weeks!!