"Why do you do this?" That random thought that popped into my head on the drive home this past weekend. For many coaches, the drive home from games and tournaments can be both a blessing and a curse; time to reflect on the previous successes, analyzing failures and planning for future improvements (and trust me - long drives after a loss can affect a coach much more than many realize!) This drive home, though, turned introspective. The simple answer could have been "Because I love soccer", "I see the potential in these athletes" or "It is my profession to coach the sport". But it's not that. In all honesty, the real answer actually has nothing to do with soccer.
There's a theory in psychology that every person has 6-7 experiences in their lives that will shape who they will become; whether positive or negative. These "life moments" may not seem significant to others but will profoundly shape an individual's future. They can be a comment, a compliment, a helping hand or crushing blow. When you start to look at the lives that are around you (especially young athletes), that idea can start to become overwhelming. A single comment from you to someone who looks up to you could potentially shape their life. Wow.
"A coach will impact more young people in a year
than the average person does in a lifetime."
- Billy Graham -
Personally, looking back on my own life, I can recall five points that have shaped me to who I am today:
A recreational soccer coach who told my parents he believed in me; even when my skill was not where it should have been.
A high school JV coach whose single positive compliment on improvement entirely shifted my belief in myself.
One high school varsity coach that almost made me quit soccer entirely.
One club coach who built my passion back up for soccer my 18-U season.
One person who said that quitting a salary job to build a soccer personal training business was too risky.
Each of those points have drastically influenced me to become the person I am today; both for the positive and negative. So back to the original question.... "Why do you choose to coach?" What makes you drive 3-4 hours to coach a game in 20 degree weather? What makes you spend multiple hours a day to make sure your athletes have the best training sessions and feedback possible? Why do you go the extra mile to help players "just improve at soccer?" Why do you spend time getting to know your athletes; their dreams, problems, worries and weird quirks?
There was a moment this weekend that helps answer that question. Before our third tournament game, I was sitting down in the hotel lobby going over some notes for the match. One of my players sat down at my table and wanted to discuss a bit of the previous night's game. We covered formations and what the team and she individually had done well; in addition to what she wanted to improve. Suddenly, I realized I was witnessing a very important moment for this young athlete; a moment where she was starting to step up to own her future. She was willing to put aside any nervousness and just ask "How can I improve?" AND listen to learn. She asked questions when points didn't make sense, gave feedback on my coaching points and wanted to talk with her teammates about everything. It was a small but awesome moment that as a coach and mentor I will remember for a long time.
So to answer the original question of "Why do you coach?", the answer is simply "We need to be a positive point in a young person's life; whether on or off the soccer field". As a coach, that answer puts an immense weight on your shoulders in that you now have a higher standard to live up to; even if those standards mean sacrificing for others. It is no longer about just winning and trophies. We have to be constantly aware of what we say, what we do and how we hold ourselves. Every where we look, our culture pushes down those who want to succeed; mostly with negativity or jealousy. But if we as coaches can be just one critical point of light/hope/confidence in our players lives, isn't it all worth it then??