Our Daniel has really been wanting to quit soccer, but we have persuaded him to hang in there for a little while longer, hoping we could stretch things out until his assignment to his permanent team to see if things would improve with a different coach and team of players. Wishing that he’d manage to hang in until the end of the season.
The season started out with such high hopes. In early September, Daniel was very excited to start playing soccer. As a family we’ve been playing ball with him at every opportunity – that soccer ball comes everywhere with us. He’s been enjoying it – one would be hard-pressed to wipe the smile from his face. He passes, dribbles, runs up and down the field, steals the ball from me… You get the idea – he has fun.
However, his first coach clearly didn’t inspire him, engage him, allow him to flourish on the field. Daniel would often remain stationary, watching as the ball rolled past, then he’d tilt his head back and raise his arms signalling defeat. When another child challenged him for possession of the ball, he would just relinquish it. A chase for possession would end two or three feet too soon, his cleats had suddenly applied the brakes. In frustration I’d call out “watch the ball Daniel”, “RUN!!”, “listen to the coach!” My opportunities for cheering were few, but when they occurred, I was over the top enthusiastic “great save!”, “way to go!”, “good kick!” I shared his feelings of defeat, futility and not belonging. After each practice and game I’d give him a giant hug and discuss any positives I could from the session.
Time marched on – we struggled through the month of September. We knew that each child in the league was being evaluated and that the teams were going to be assembled in an effort to evenly distribute talent. Over Thanksgiving weekend the children were assigned to their ‘permanent’ teams that they’d stay with until spring break. With difficulty, I resisted sending an email to the U9 coordinator to influence what team he would be assigned to. I didn’t want to interfere, but I was fully anticipating having to step in if things didn’t start to improve. This week we received the email announcing his team and new coach. Whew, it wasn’t the same group as before.
His first practice with his new team as last night. We were the first to arrive at the field and met the new coach, Diana, and the team manager, Laura. Diana was immediately out on the field with Daniel, directing him to practice certain moves, keeping him moving, keeping him smiling and laughing. While she didn’t encourage his robot inspired practice suggestions, she didn’t shoot him down either. Gently, yet firmly she guided the team through the practice. I heard nothing but positive feedback from the parents and I didn’t see a single child struggling on the field. The group interacted as a team, the boys calling each others’ names out to pass, learning how to play different positions, absorbing the rules of the game.
In short Daniel’s new coach, Diana, is wonderful. He was so excited to be playing; he was jumping up and down, waving his arms and loudly repeating every single word that came out of her mouth. Even from halfway across the field I could hear that he was hanging on her every word. Amazing.
I stood on the sidelines, thrilled to be witness to this transformation. What a difference a good coach makes!