I would much prefer to win. Sometimes by a little, sometimes by a LOT. I would prefer to sit calmly on the bench while my team mops the floor with the opposition. Or give a rousing halftime speech that spurs us to victory. Or make an end of the game brilliant substitution. Or have time to think about unrelated topics, confident in the skills I have carefully laid out, demonstrated, and drilled into my team. Or walk across the pitch and proudly shake the hand of the other coach, beaming as compliments are showered on our skill, preparation, and determination.
Sadly, this has not been the case.
I can offer many explanations, some would say excuses, but what do they know? They know NOTHING. Allow me to enlighten you. Seriously, the deck was never stacked in my favor…
My first year coaching, the girls in my English class pleaded with me to be the head coach of their fledgling soccer team when they learned I played in high school. I declined. I had never coached before. What business did I have coaching? But I offered to assist if my schedule allowed. A Spanish teacher assumed the task. After a few practices, the pleading resumed. At the first game I attended, said coach sauntered on the field ten minutes before game time in a trench coat and loafers, caressing his over-priced coffee. Ten minutes into game time, I understood their pleas entirely. I assisted Senor Latte for the remainder of that season and helped out where I could. We did not win.
The next season was sure to be better. I agreed to head coach. With one year under our belt, clear direction from the first day of practice, and a coach who wanted to be there, certainly we could find the back of the net. I had some very talented, dedicated girls, but many of them had only played for one year and this was a 6-12 grade team playing established varsity programs. I was teaching basic rules-kickoffs, corner kick vs. goal kick, correct form for throw-ins, etc. There was so much to cover. They worked hard and saw improvement. Our greatest moment of the season was leading at half-time against a rival school. Unfortunately, it did not last until the end of the game. This season can be summed up by one simple question a sixth grade player asked following a game, “So, who won this one?” *Face palm* Please note, we had a score board.
I changed schools and had my choice between Varsity Cheerleading, where I would be required to attend all boys and girls varsity basketball games, both home and away, totaling over 30-OR-middle school volleyball with 6 games. Volleyball, here I come. And sure, let’s get pregnant during the season. The school had a great athletic policy. Varsity-the best play; JV-the best play most of the game, but everyone gets in the game; Middle School-everyone plays as equal amount of time as possible. This is an excellent policy to develop athletes and winning programs…unless you are the middle school volleyball coach with 15 players. Rotations, substitutions, lack of consistency. Yes, we lost. Every game. Every match.
I changed schools yet again and returned to soccer. Coach was the head of soccer and wanted to start a JV team, a necessity for a winning program. I was named head coach of the JV team. I was back at the beginning with many players who knew nothing about soccer, the rules, the technique. There were a handful who were skilled, experienced players. It was a stretch to field a JV and Varsity team, but we did it by sharing players. Varsity won the conference that year; JV didn’t win a game.
The next season was sure to be better…again…right? It was. I had a great group of girls. We learned; we laughed; we grew. We lost. Yes, we lost, but the games got closer and more competitive. And finally, after hours of practice and persistence, in a season where the Varsity won the conference again, we WON a game! After five years coaching, I won a game!
I’ll be honest, I cried I was so happy.
I have not coached since that season or that game.
Looking back, I do have some confessions:
- I confess that I loved the girls I coached more than I loved winning.
- I confess that the worth of an athlete is not determined only on the pitch, but rather in life.
- I confess that I’d do it all again, so that I could watch them grow into the amazing individuals, wives, and mothers that they are today! Except maybe I’d try to win just a little more.