Coaching has rewards

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 25, 2006

I passed a ball field the other day and it started me thinking back to the days when I was a coach in the youth soccer league of Emporia.

I have to say that coaching was one of the most rewarding and educational things I’ve done.

I coached in the Cadet League, which consisted of kids between the ages of five and seven.

Six players took the field at each time and each of the three teams in the league had 11 players.

First off, coaching kids that age is a huge lesson in patience.

I can see the reasoning behind kicking the ball while standing on your feet.

The challenge is explaining that to a six year old who thinks it looks much cooler to kick the ball while sliding.

They don’t care where the ball goes, it’s the slide that counts.

Real soccer players get dirty.

Of course in soccer the only person that is supposed to touch the ball with their hands is the goalie.

Try telling that to the child that picks the ball up and runs the other way because he (or she) doesn’t want the other kids to touch his ball.

Then there are the kids that keep running.

I learned pretty fast that the most important lesson was not how to correctly kick the ball (you don’t use your toe!) or what the positions were.

The most important lesson was what the referee’s whistle meant.

No sooner did the kids get that lesson down than we had to move to the next stage, which was not to fight over who would bring the ball back to the field.

Many people describe soccer games with kids this young as &uot;beehive soccer&uot;.

They would be correct.

Everyone wants to kick the ball, so they all chase after it like bees going for the one flower with nectar.

The great thing about coaching soccer was that I had the same kids year after year so I was able to see them progress from the beehive to real players.

They learned the positions.

They learned how to kick the ball.

Sometimes the change was gradual and sometimes it seemed to happen overnight.

It’s those changes that kept me, and I suspect a number of coaches, on the sidelines.

One of my favorite moments happened during my last season.

There was a player on the other team I’ll call &uot;Chris&uot;.

Chris was bigger than everybody on my team and my players always spoke of him in awe.

He was the intimidator.

During one game I had &uot;Kelly&uot; playing fullback and she took the ball right from Chris.

I don’t know who was more shocked, Chris or Kelly.

The change in her was immediate.

Before she was often intimidated and now she had defeated the mighty giant Chris.

She finally gained the confidence I knew she had, she just had to find it.

I might be getting a little dramatic and I certainly can’t take credit, but those are the moments that make a season.

Many people say that the scores and wins count, but my philosophy is a little different.

I want the kids to have fun, which means getting to play.

Nothing frustrates me more than coaches that don’t let all the kids play.

Let the kids focus on winning in high school.

You can’t improve if you don’t get playing time.

Next time you hear about youth leagues needing coaches, consider volunteering.

The rewards are worth the time you put into the team.

Registration fees – $25.

Days practicing – 12.

Making a difference in a kid’s life – Priceless.

Heather Odom can be reached at