August 26, 2010 by David Gillaspie
I’ve confessed before and I’ll admit it here: I coached youth soccer. I was a soccer daddy.
More than that, I liked it.
Never played soccer, though it’s looks like it might be fun. Did some coaching, but not with the whistle and clipboard in my hands.
Was it a big deal? It wasn’t supposed to be, but here’s how it turned out:
After a certain age kids start in with other sports, but soccer starts in kindergarten. Most of the time you get two kinds of coaches:
1. A former player who knows what it takes to make soccer players and drives the kids like it’s World Cup time.
2. A parent who steps up to coach because if they don’t the league will dissolve the team because no other parent wants to do it.
As a third choice, I started coaching after watching #1 and #2 ruin sports for their teams.
Older kids find a way to compete. If they like the sport they play, they’ll stick around until the don’t. Younger kids need more guidance.
PROBLEM: If they only play one sport and don’t like it, they might quit on all sports.
SOLUTION: Make that one sport the highlight of their day.
As a male coach I was expected to show favoritism to my kids. All dads do it. Did I mention I had two soccer playing boys? I’d rather the kids quit sport if they expected me to pave the way for them. That’s not what sports are about. Show the way and let the players roll out the cement.
This worked for the older team and the younger team. See, each season I took two teams, one for each kid, and held practices back to back. I did the same with basketball and indoor soccer and any other sport they wanted to try. I knew the drill and parents called each season to make sure their kids got on my teams.
My teams had one goal, and it wasn’t GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL, or any other soccer score chant.
The goal was making someone else on the team better. There’s no trophy or juice box waiting for the kid who makes someone else better. The reward isn’t measured in things. The reward for being a good teammate is acknowledgement from the rest of the team.
PROBLEM: How to designate one kid as the one who makes others better?
SOLUTION: Have the team vote on the kid who makes them better. A team that votes is a team that pays attention.
One practice the team voted a kid as the one who made others better. His mom was thrilled. Her kid was a little guy, bashful, who played a passive game. Except this practice he made a few assists and a few stops.
He was pumped up.
“I’ve never seen my son so excited about sports,” the mom said.
“It happens to them all at some point,” I said. “Wait long enough and something good happens on the field.”
“Have you played soccer all your life?” she asked?
“Never played. I played football and wrestled.”
“Do you have a favorite football team?”
“Dallas Cowboys. My Granddaddy used to send us all their preseason stuff. We visited Dallas once and he took us out to their training facility. Met George Andre and Reggie Rucker when I was eleven or twelve. Besides, my Dad was a Packer fan, so the Cowboys were a natural fit.”
The mom smiled. “My sister works for Roger Staubach. Would you like a picture of him?”
A picture of Roger the Dodger, the Navy Heisman Trophy winner who did his four years in the Navy and came back to win a Super Bowl with the Cowboys? That Roger Staubach?
“That’d be nice,” I said. I really didn’t expect any more than a nice gesture. A picture, if it came, would probably be a baseball card.
Three months later a big, flat, envelope came through UPS. Inside I found a big glossy image of Roger Staubach signed, “To David Gillespie, Best Wishes, Roger Staubach, #12.”
After I fixed the spelling on my last name that picture jumped to first place on my list of personal treasures. I thought so much of it that I put in a special frame and put it on the fireplace mantle.
Turns out the special frame was more special than I thought. Someone in my household took the picture out of the frame so they could put something else in it. My Roger ended up on the table and got recycled with the newspaper.
PROBLEM: I lost my Roger.
BAD SOLUTION: Blame my wife.
REAL SOLUTION: Get over it, it’s only a picture for God’s sake.
BEST SOLUTION: Pretend it’s just been misplaced for six years and keep looking for it.
“Roger? Is that you? Roger, you can come out now. Ollie ollie oxen free, you can come out from hiding. Roger, I know you’re around here some place.”
At the start of each football season I kick the Roger hunt into high gear so Tony Romo can share the Roger aura. If Roger and I watch the Cowboy games together, this is a Super Bowl year again. That’s been the problem the last few years.
We need a Super Bowl Roger, come out, come out, where ever you are. Tony needs you, Roger.