Inside: 10 career and parenting lessons learned from coaching youth soccer.
“Mom, I want you to coach me in soccer this spring.” – Jack
“Me? You want me? Sure, bud!” – Me, playing it cool but internally celebrating/biting my nails.
Many moons ago I had helped coach a youth basketball team, and I did play soccer through high school….so I could do this. I think?
Fast forward four months and Team Orange won our fair share of games and lost our fair share of games. And honestly, I don’t even know if that’s true because we didn’t keep score. These kids are six.
I know that our little team of seven kids had a good time though. I also know that I learned a lot from the experience and those lessons can be related back to career development, parenthood, and working mom life. OF COURSE, they can!
10 Career & Life Lessons Learned from Youth Soccer
1. Everyone’s The New Kid At Some Point
As the first practice approached, I started getting SUPER nervous to coach. Jack didn’t make it any easier because when I ran my first day of practice stand-up routine by him he did NOT laugh and thought the “get to know you” games I came up with sounded horrifying.
And while he loves soccer, Jack was nervous too. Being with new kids, on a new field, with new coaches. It was a lot of new.
But we both showed up, shook the nerves off, and had a great time from day one all the way to the last day ice cream party.
The Lesson: Everyone is the new kid at one point and we all get those first-day jitters. That doesn’t mean you sit at home. Instead, you turn those nerves into excitement and give it a go!
2. Make Your Voice Heard
There are hundreds of glorious kindergarten teachers out there who can “quiet coyote” a group of six-year-olds into order. However, I quickly learned that I am not a kindergarten teacher nor was I one in a past life.
To get Team Orange to circle up, line up, clean up the cones, or pick their heads up when they were dribbling, the best tool I had at my non-kindergarten teacher disposal was my voice. The whole big voice!
The Lesson: Sometimes in life, we have to get a little loud to make our point, maybe even push our voice to project further than we’re naturally comfortable with. Don’t worry, you can drink some tea after to soothe those vocal cords, and it will be worth it.
3. Leadership Doesn’t Have to Look One Way
I co-coached with two dads. Each one of us had a different style. I was the organized leader, Francois was the fun energetic leader, and Ron brought the calm when our group of little wackadoos needed to chill.
(Ron also accidentally hit two and half separate children in the face with a soccer ball but that’s neither here nor there. They were fine.)
Our styles complimented each other, we had a lot of fun, and the kids really improved their soccer game despite the fact that was there was nary a soccer pro among us.
The Lesson: You can lead in lots of different ways and be effective. As a parent and as a professional. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently!
4. Fall Down 8 Times, Get Up 9
I am constantly impressed by the number of times kids can fall down and then get back up. Each of our seven players fell down a least fourteen times during practice and every time they bounced right back up like rubber balls.
Even when the fall required a band-aid, they were like little Rocky Balboas wanting to be sent back into the ring.
Cut me, coach. Cut me!
The Lesson: You fall, I fall, we all fall. The most important part is that we don’t stay down. In your career and in parenthood – get back up and back in the game.
5. Take a Water Break
Near the end of the season, we had a few practices and games during which temperatures reached approximately 1.5 gazillion degrees.
1.5 gazillion degrees is hot for simply standing outside complaining about how hot it is. That makes it WAY too hot for running around playing soccer.
However, we persevered thanks to a few well-placed trees at the edge of the field that provided shade, and plenty of water breaks. After a good water break, these kids had their batteries recharged and were ready to roll.
The Lesson: Breaks are important. I say this a lot as a career coach, but it’s one of those lessons I have a harder time internalizing. I need to remember to take a break too because those little moments to recharge can change the game.
6. Look to Pass
During one game (we were playing Team Teal if you were curious), the kids on Team Orange did something that left my mouth gaping open in shock.
They passed the ball up the whole field! Bing. Bang. Boom. Three swift passes, then straight into the goal.
You would have thought they just won the Junior Olympics the way I reacted jumping around on the field.
I told the kids “Did you see how fast you got a goal when you passed the ball? See how cool that is! Keeping looking to pass just like that!”
The Lesson: Even if your career and life don’t appear to be team sports, they really are. Team up with colleagues to get the job done faster. Team up with your partner at home to tackle the laundry. Pass it back and forth and you’re going to save energy and time.
7. Go to the Goal
If you’ve ever watched six year olds play soccer you know that they tend to hover around the ball like a swarm of bees instead of spacing out.
We tried to work on the concept of spreading out and getting open near the goal for a pass. The number of times Ron, Francois, and I hollered “go to the goal” was nearly equivalent to the number of times I holler “Stop jumping off the couch” on a daily basis.
That’s a lot.
The Lesson: If you want to make some moves in your career, you’ve got to actually make some moves! Get moving towards that goal if you’re ever going to score.
8. You’re Better Than You Think
Some of the kids on Team Orange had played soccer for a couple of years.
In fact, one of the kids on our team had a dad who gave him a soccer ball at birth and set up drills in the backyard. (Cough, cough Glen, cough, cough…)
But these kiddos are still super little and for one player this was her first time out on the field. She told me at practice “I’m a little new to this, you can tell.”
Get this though. That same game, she stopped two goals from going in the net and made a great pass across field. Lady! You’re way better than you were giving yourself credit for!
The Lesson: I bet you’re better than you’re giving yourself credit for too. Think about all you’re accomplishing each day as a parent and as a professional. You didn’t just wake up one day and do that thing – you worked at it and that’s awesome.
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Another kid on Team Orange was the BEST at advocating for herself.
When I explained a drill (rather poorly I might add), she piped right up to say “I don’t think I understand. Can you explain that again, please?”
Her question allowed me the opportunity to rethink how to explain this soccer drill and then everyone understood it better and could get more out of it.
How awesome is that? What a cool kid!
The Lesson: If you don’t understand something – ask! I’ve asked plenty of questions in my career, and many more questions in parenthood. There are experienced people out there who have walked the path before you, go ahead and ask them how they did it.
10. Make It Fun
What I’ll remember the most from coaching youth soccer this season was laughing, a lot.
I laughed when the kids chased me to steal the ball. I laughed when the kids all started calling each other “Bob” for some reason. I definitely laughed when the kids laughed because kid laughter is contagious.
Team Orange improved over the course of the season, that’s for sure. But I think they will remember the laughter and fun the most too and that makes my heart happy.
The Lesson: We lose a little bit of the lightness of childhood when we become adults. And I get it, adulting is hard. But whenever we can tap back into the laughter and make our work and lives fun, that’s gold.
Go, Orange, Go!
With that, here’s to you, Team Orange!
May you forget all of the poor technique I taught you.
May you remember the three or four accurate soccer skills I taught you.
And may you continue to try your best and laugh your hardest, every chance you get.