Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I grew up playing soccer. Unfortunately due to asthma, I was relegated to full back, but all good because I am still alive and breathing today. The other day, I found myself out by the fields, watching kids in the U12 league play a match.

The morning was just about perfect, in a Goldilocks kinda way. A little overcast, so as not to be too hot, but not too cool as well. The players milled around, juggling balls with knees, chest, feet. Each coach giving their last minute motivation, to the rapt attention of eleven year olds. The first half was dominated by the team in Spain colors. The other team, dressed in purple, could do very little right; no energy, no shot, they might as well have passed the ball and sat down. In what could have been much more lopsided, the half time score was 3-0. 

Their coach never gave up on them. I began to watch him halfway through the first half when I heard his cheering for the opponents goalie. The goalie had just made a great save of one of their few shots on goal, and the coach yelled "Great Save!" Being competitive, this threw me for a loop. What coach encourages his opponent.

He did not limit his praise to his opponent, but gave it liberally to everyone on the field. When one of his players would run off after a substitution, he would kneel down and talk to them, giving them pointers and encouragement. When his team was getting blasted on the field, he kept his cool and kept it fun for his kids.

I don't know if the Spain team felt they were far enough ahead, but the second half was like watching Stallone in a boxing ring with Dolph Lundren. You could almost hear the soundtrack in the background as the team slowly crawled back into the game. They scored their first goal on a break away, 3-1...a few minutes later, some fancy passing and teamwork made it 3-2...the air was alive with energy and with 30 seconds to go, the goalie dove one way, while the ball went the other...3-3. Players leaped into the air, wanting to pull their shirt off and dash to mid-field.

As fun as it was to watch the game, the coaches chatter had seized my attention. The game ended in a tie, and I watched as he went to the opposing team, sharing a word with each boy as they shook hands, commenting on something specific they did good. As much as he had showed his players he believed in them during the game, well before the comeback was on, he showed the other team what it meant to care more for them than the outcome of the game.

When winning becomes greater than the people, who is left to cheer for you?


Daniel said...

Coaches like this are very special. I have seen something similar in the attitude of the coach for my daughter's lacrosse team. Kids need encouragement. They need to know that they are special and appreciated and noticed. How awesome that folks get this.

Lover of Life said...

This post brought back memories! Our youngest is asthmatic, and played outside mid for her high school team all four years. She was one of the only ones to make varsity as a freshman. But that honor came with some bench sitting that first year. We have dealt with many soccer coaches, and the one like you discuss in this post is rare. Great post, thank you.

Ronda Laveen said...

What an insipiring sports coach and life coach! It is a rare soul who can show others how to live life to the fullest. Great.

Brian Miller said...

good coaches are essential in sports and in life, finding a good one is few and far between, but mans the world to kids and adults.

Rob said...

That is why I love Phil Jackson. Actually I don't know if he does anything like this but it's playoff time and the Lakers are on my mind.

Lola said...

That coach is a special educator, a notable human being and a good sportsman. The international professional soccer world would be a much better place, were there more coaches like the one you so gracefully described in your post.

We get to see a lot of football here and there's a hugely powerful business world behind it. I much prefer going to see junior matches, nonprofessional soccer and small schools play one another. I love to watch kids kicking a ball in the street and the poetry that goes with it.

It's so great to be back home. Ciao

Mrsupole said...

I hope if you ever see that coach again that you say something to him, and that you say it in front of as many people as possible. I am saying this because sometimes people do not see the obvious and it is good for all the kids and their parents to see what a great person their coach is. And if this helps any of them to become a better coach or player later on then you will have done a great service.

Oh and please thank him for me too. People like him are very rare and very special. Pretty much like you.

God bless.