Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Power of Titles

Somehow or another I let myself get finagled into "coaching" the Spring Soccer season.

My total experience with soccer consists of watching The Rationalist and The Intuitive play this past season. Frequent refrains upon my lips were "What just happened?", "Why do they have a penalty kick?", "What does offsides mean?", and towards the end of the season,"OH...that's what that circle in the middle of the field is for!"

Basically the soccer organization was desperate. The coach for my sons' team had a family emergency and had to back out and the director kept sending out e-mails looking for someone to "step up" and provide adult supervision and encouragement.

I wrote a reluctant, hesitant e-mail saying that if absolutely nobody else came forward that I could do it...but that he should definitely pick anybody else besides me if he had other options.

"You're the one!" was his reply.

His exuberant confidence in my coaching abilities was actually frustrating to me. It reminded me of the semester that I helped teach English as a second language at my university. It was a temporary gig. I was supposed to be assisting the professor who had a group from Brazil that was specifically at our college for this crash course in English.

I thought that I was a "helper". He decided that I was a "teacher". When I asked him what we were supposed to do for the classes, he said, "Just talk to them."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I don't believe in curriculum. They'll learn more if you just converse with them."

".....OK...but talk with them about what?"

"Oh, I'm sure you'll figure it out."

He refused to give me and the other student teachers any guidance. He had no plan. He had no formula. He had no specific method. His idea was that he could throw us into a class of 15 Brazilians who spoke minimal English and we would "just figure it out".

That was a disaster. An hour every day for a month is a long amount of time to fill up with unscripted, unguided, unfocused conversation. I was there when the "teacher" evaluations came back. It wasn't pretty.

Apparently, the Brazilian group expected much more for the money and time they had dedicated to coming to our actual teachers who would actually teach.

That was one of the most depressing semesters I had. There's nothing like failing miserably when you don't want to, and while those in charge of you simultaneously refuse to help you succeed in any way.

It was one of those lessons that I have learned many times. Just because someone has a specific title doesn't mean they know jack about what they are doing.

Now, I am being called Coach in the e-mails I keep trading back and forth with the director....which cracks me up.


How about Adult who Stands Around and Makes Sure Everyone Stays Alive?


Assistant Village Idiot said...

I was mostly terrible at coaching 4-6th grade soccer. Yelling encouragement often sounds to kids like just yelling.

There is a tendency for kids to either swarm like bees after the ball, or stand still until the ball comes very near them. Either a too-rigid or too-flexible idea of position.

What I learned by the end of the season. 1. Teach them to defend aggressively by just going after the ball when the opposing player has it. They are worried about being embarrassed by a good player tricking them. Not to worry. They will succeed more than fail with that strategy, and when they fail, can learn the part about getting right back in the action.

2. Your good players will want to hog the ball and score. Get them to buy into the idea of the skill necessary to set up weaker teammates to score. There's an art to it, calling out directions while on the field, keeping their head up, watching and listening. It will improve everyone's game.

3. Getting bapped in the face can bring tears to a keeper's eyes. Teaching them there is special honor in standing tall even when this happens is better for young men than teaching them not to cry.

terri said...

Good advice!