It’s the end of the season at St. Joes. I have bittersweet thoughts. Bitter because it was the worst season of my career as a coach, with a 2-5-5 record and a dearth of goals. I also spent too much time yelling for my comfort (Thanks Nico), and the sweetness of having my own team did not materialize. The sweet parts… well, I guess there weren’t many. Some kids were nice but mostly they didn’t care.
At this point I start asking myself ‘why am I doing this?’ The excitement wore off years ago. It’s something to do, I suppose, and I get to get outside and run around a little bit and get a sense of importance – but is that worth it? I lost the sense of achieving something. Scoring some goals. Seeing some kids blossom. I’m not getting that. If I’m apathetic, the kids are apathetic, and nobody is accomplishing anything, what’s the point?
At this point in my thought process, I realize this is THE question of life: “What’s the point?”, and if I were to take action here, I’d have to take action on my life, and face the inevitable conclusion that there is no point to anything. And this way lies madness. So coaching becomes ‘something to do’. Getting outside, running around a little, and a sense of importance from bossing kids around.
Then I get petulant. I start thinking about how I got a raw deal – my team isn’t athletic, the mores of the school inhibit ambition, or it’s Coach Berman’s fault. I think “If only I had been able to coach them from the start” (I only had four practice sessions of my own – what can anyone do during four practices?), or if I had been given more authority, or if Coach Berman hadn’t done all those lines and laps, my team would have run harder.
But aren’t those just excuses? The bottom line is, I’m not a good coach. If I were good, I would have made those four sessions count, I could motivate them, I should have won dammit! In all my years coaching KASL I only had 2 losing seasons, and both were very close to winning seasons – a difference of one goal. And now I get a ‘real’ team (a high school team) and I utterly fail. What happened? What went wrong? Are the kids just that bad? Did I overestimate my abilities? Am I not cut out for ‘the big leagues’? Or is it my or Dave Berman’s coaching?
These questions keep me up all night. I thought about it every day during the season, at every game, every practice where I had a moment free for introspection, and I’m still thinking about it. I can’t figure it out, and it’s driving me nuts. Maybe this isn’t healthy. Maybe I should stick to basic drills, focus on technique, just stop trying to challenge the team, stop trying to win.
That alone leads to a new chain of thoughts – Am I arrogant for thinking I can turn any team into a winning one? Am I crazy for thinking about this so much? Am I stupid for thinking there is an answer? How do other people deal with these questions? Do they even deal with them? Other coaches I observe don’t seem to beat themselves up. If anything they seem more arrogant. Just today I had a coach give me a hard time about “How was that push a foul but the other one was not?” Don’t they realize how human I am, how human they are, how human everyone is? Where’s the introspection? How can they ever learn? Am I that way, failing to see obvious answers to simple soccer problems? Am I just the oblivious coach yelling at the referee in my head? Excetera, excetera, excetera. An endless loop of endless thoughts ad nauseum.
So I shove it away. That leads to a new chain of thoughts about shoving thoughts away. Maybe shoving these deep thoughts away are causing me to avoid simple questions! For example, the problem of swinging at the ball and missing. (It happened last game – the other team got an easy goal because our sweeper swung and missed at what should have been an easy kick). The obvious answer is “Get your body behind the ball.” Obvious, right? So obvious it has to be wrong. Kicking the ball, almost by definition, requires leaning to one side. Do I really expect someone to throw their body into the ball when they can just as easily kick it at their side? When its easier to kick a ball at your side? I think of all the times I haven’t ‘got my body behind the ball’. I think of the times I did and still missed – the ball bounced under my foot. Does the simple saying “Get your body behind the ball” lead to people not controlling the ball? To them not kicking the ball? To the other team stealing the ball? Is this why my team sucks!? Arrrrggg stop stop thinking so much!
There’s much more, so much more about formations and enthusiasm and the role of tactics vs hustle in a team; is there such a thing as a sucky team, is their speed a fixed thing, are they always going to be slow; is motivation the only thing a coach can bring to the team; and more. But the catharsis that is writing shall sate the thought demons, at least for now, and so I bid you, dear blog, adieu and good night.