The first season was a success.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my foray into coaching youth soccer, and my son Anthony’s first time playing organized sports. At the time, we didn’t know much about the process, or what to expect. We were going into it simply looking to have ourselves a fun time.
With the final two games coming up, I know I did, and I’m pretty confident Anthony did too.
Over the past month, we’ve had weekly practices and Saturday games. Together with the other two coaches, we put together simple drills that would help the kids work on the basics of soccer. We had them dribble through cones before stopping to take a shot.
They loved Sharks and Minnows — dribbling the ball across the field without letting players in the middle, the Sharks, knock it away from them. Every practice ended with a scrimmage, where we’d split the kids up and let them play.
One of the biggest challenges was learning the names of our players, and their personalities on the field.
We had all types on our team. There were the veterans, kids who had clearly played a year or two before that, and had already mastered the basics — passing, dribbling, shooting.
Some of the boys played like they were shot out of a cannon. They’d get the ball and zoom down the field, not letting anything stand in their way. We had a few collisions and minor injuries along the way.
Other players were all about defense. They would park the bus right in front of the goal — which doubled as a jungle gym when the coaches weren’t looking — and stymie any shots that came toward them.
And of course, 6-year-olds don’t have stellar attention spans, so there were always a few off looking at dandelions or trying to gross each other out.
I’m not sure what their wins and losses came out to. At the kindergarten level, teams split in two to play simultaneous games in order to get more kids playing time, and the focus is more on developing skills and having fun than your winning percentage. The league didn’t even ask for results after the games.
Still, the boys always seemed to know. After the games, the split squads would share notes, reliving the goals scored for their teammates who didn’t see them.
The greatest success for me has been watching Anthony grow as an athlete and as a kid. His confidence level has skyrocketed from that first practice. Whereas before he might be more timid as the ball — and the mob of players chasing it — came toward him, now he’ll seek it out.
He’s a better passer than before, and has a grasp on dribbling. Seeing him boot the ball up the field had me cheering, even as I reffed his game.
We’re not sure what the next phase is for our youth sports adventures. There’s baseball this summer, and then maybe soccer again in the fall or next spring. Anthony doesn’t seem interested in basketball, but that’s an option too.
But no matter where the next step takes us, I’m happy to have taken this one with him.