(Guest post from Nicole Cody, Owner, Soccer Shots of Greater St. Charles)
Our oldest son, Micah, has played team sports since he was 4 (he is almost 8 now). He started with soccer, and added basketball about a year ago. Over the last four years, I have spent many (many) hours as the model soccer mom, on the sidelines cheering him on…
“Micah, please pay attention to the game and stop hanging like Spiderman in the net.”
“Son, you should apologize to him for that slide tackle.”
“Honey, it’s OK to pass the ball to your teammate once in awhile.”
“You. Are. On. The. SAME. TEAM!!!!!!!”
“Goooooooooaaaaaaaaallllllllllllll!” (which, one week, was quickly followed by “is it really necessary to celebrate your goal by pretending to make a snow angel in the middle of the field????”)
This past weekend, he played in his first basketball game of the season, and my view from the sideline allowed me to see – and appreciate – the difference that a really, really, really good coach can make.
Micah was placed on a recreational co-ed basketball team with Coach Julio. I’ve seen a lot of coaches over the last four years, but I have not experienced a coach like Coach Julio. I knew he was special at the first practice, when he said, “I’m going to be loud, but you’ll hear me being loud to encourage and teach the kids.” True story – he is loud but encouraging… Maybe one of the most encouraging coaches I’ve ever seen. He has been able to connect with my son in a way that not many other coaches have before… he is a very patient teacher with a rowdy group of second-grade boys. During this game, I found myself paying more attention to how consumed he was at making sure the boys were having fun and learning. The ref called everything – traveling, double dribble, you name it – and I’m pretty sure there were four baskets scored during the entire (hour-long) game. No one kept score (that I could tell), not even the coach or the players, and for my ultra-competitive little guy, that was a miracle in and of itself. And even though the whistle kept blowing, Coach Julio never lost his patience and never stopped encouraging the boys. He clapped, he cheered, and he gave high fives like they were going out of style.
He consistently and repeatedly communicated with my son in a way that he could understand and connect with. He was constantly getting to Micah’s level – making eye contact and showing that he was engaged and in it with them.
He knew all their names… even after only a couple hours with them. And then, today, when I checked my email, Coach Julio had taken headshots of each of the boys and made a poster with their picture and name so that they could all learn and remember their teammates’ names.
Did I mention that Coach Julio is a volunteer coach?
As a Soccer Shots owner, this experience struck me because at Soccer Shots, coaches are really important.
We look for people who will not only be dependable and patient, but will (more importantly) be encouraging with the children who play with us. We look for coaches who are able to make Soccer Shots the best 30 minutes of a child’s week. We hire coaches who believe that it’s more than just soccer – coaches who truly believe that they have the ability to leave a lasting impact on the youth that we serve through the game of soccer. We hire coaches who not only understand that this is the foundation of our program, but who also take their responsibilities as a role model to tiny, amazing little people very seriously.
To be honest, it’s not easy to find these types of coaches. It’s tempting to “settle” when faced with a very full schedule, a fast-approaching season, and a shortage of talented instructors.
As a parent, it is this kind of experience that I imagined for my child when I signed him up for sports in the first place. And it’s the kind of experience that only a really, really, really good coach can provide. Maybe he’ll stick with basketball… or soccer… or maybe he won’t. But either way, I guarantee that he will remember Coach Julio and think of him with a smile.
And I will too.