just kickin’ it…

this past weekend, my kids (jack and grace) played in their first soccer game with their ymca team…

there was a lot of build up and excitement leading up to the game…

which can be pretty much summed up like this…

the kids kicked the ball a couple of times, but mostly spent time lying on the ground and crying…

so, in other words…

pretty much like what we see in the english premier league (said my sister, chris)…

ūüôā

tradecraft…your voice (part I)

i¬†remember inviting my parents to come to a soccer¬†game that i was coaching…

i¬†had visited my parents at their jobs, and i¬†thought it was ‘pretty eye-opening’¬†to see them in action–they worked hard, enjoyed what they did and had the respect of their colleagues…nowadays they’re retired and living in a retirement community¬†that caters to veterans/ex-service men and women–so they spend their days driving the posted speed limit-“13 mph” (they live in one of the colonies), drinking margaritas at the daily happy hour event, and loungin’ in their soft clothesūüôā

anyways…back then…i wondered what they would think of me as a coach…

they showed up before kick-off and stayed for the whole game; afterwards, my mom said (wide-eyed), they really listened and responded to you?! …it was a compliment, but she sounded incredulous, almost like she couldn’t believe what she saw:)

truth be told, i¬†didn’t know i¬†had it in me either…i¬†didn’t know that i¬†was capable of¬†“coaching”¬†until i started doing it…interestingly, she identified one of the most important tools¬†available to someone who herds cats for a living…

communication

at that moment, i¬†realized that i¬†had this tool in my toolbox–i could talk to kids, i could encourage them,¬†i could motivate them…i could use my words, i could use my voice–to influence them (and i liked it)…

i think apollo creed liked it too…

man in the mirror…

in-between the summers that i worked for skyhawk’s¬†sports academy, (when i¬†was in college) i¬†coached a club u13 boys soccer¬†team with a friend…who lived¬†down the hall from me¬†in the dorms…

during one particular game, when i¬†was coaching solo, one of my players knocked into a kid on the opposing team and got the ball…the ref whistled for¬†a foul and their team got a free kick…the game went on like this for a little while and a few of their players got knocked down…at half-time, i¬†heard some murmuring through the cadre of parents on our side of the field…so, i looked up and saw the opposing team’s coach stomping towards me…

when he got up to me, he said, what kind of team are you running here…ever hear of sportsmanship?!¬†and then he stormed back to the other side before i¬†could utter a word…the parents on my side got pretty riled up over the altercation (i know this is surprising, given the reputation of parents in youth sports;)

anyways, the game went on and¬†we were down by a goal, then we¬†scored to tie…then, we scored to win the game in dramatic fashion…at the end of the game, the opposing team’s coach came back over and apologized for his behavior…

it would be easy for me to make this guy out to be the bad guy for how he acted–who does that?!…but, truth be told (and despite the “ten attitude” influence), i¬†was cultivating some of that same aggression and intensity in my own coaching persona–as a u13¬†coach no less?! when i¬†look back now, i¬†realize how ridiculous¬†some of my own behavior was…

in one particular case, a friend came to watch¬†a soccer practice i¬†was leading…at this practice, i¬†was playing alongside the kids in a scrimmage drill–and at one point, i¬†got a bit intense and knocked into one of my very own players to get the ball…later, my friend called me out on¬†my behavior¬†saying, “took it a bit too far that time, didn’t you?” and she was right, i did…

at that point, i¬†had to ask myself…what am i teaching these kids???

early on in my career,¬†i made¬†a lot of¬†mistakes like this one…where i was too intense in my approach…or other times where i was¬†too hard in discipline, too lax in discipline, often inconsistent, not gentle¬†enough with my redirection, not encouraging enough,¬†you-name it…there were a lot of rough edges when i first started out…but, by listening to/working with¬†others…by¬†going alongside skilled coaches, juvenile justice workers, youth directors and teachers–by going alongside masters–people who really knew how to herd cats well…i watched and i learned (over time)…

spiderman and other freaks…

i¬†remember when i¬†was trying-out for the soccer team at william¬†mitchell¬†high school in colorado¬†springs, colorado…it was back when i¬†was a sophomore and a transfer student to the district…at this time in my life, i¬†was so small (and skinny)…not the¬†hulking, hunk of chiseled beef you see walking the streets of minneapolis nowadays;)

back then, i was so skinny that they used to call me spiderman…i¬†mean, it was¬†crazy how freakishly¬†small i¬†was–if i¬†turned sideways, i¬†would disappear (my super-power)!¬† note to world: self/body image issues are not unique to girls/women…and let me tell you–no guy, at any point in their k-12 school career, wants to be “that small”…

anyways,¬†back to¬†the fall tryouts…it so happened that¬†i¬†made the jv soccer team…and once that was established, the coach went about training and evaluating us further…to see who would be in the “starting line-up”…

i remember¬†one day during our¬†training,¬†another sophomore (a guy who¬†kinda looked like an older version of the evil¬†kid from the omen-the original 1976 classic…which still holds up as one of creepiest halloween¬†movies of all-time!)¬†who had also made the jv squad…made a comment directed at me–he said,¬†‘this guy doesn’t realize he’s too small for the team’…walking right behind him came a senior/varsity player¬†(a person¬†who looked to be a fully grown man–as evident by the 5 o’clock shadow he was sportin’ at 3pm) who said, “he can play” (matter-of-factly) and continued on his way…funny thing was, that same senior was one of my club team coaches from the summer before (i seriously thought¬†he was an adult when he was my coach:)

well, training went on for a few more days before our first game and i worked hard (encouraged by the words of the senior/varsity player/former coach)…and the other sophomore made a few more jabs…then, game day finally came…

on game day, the jv¬†coach had us all huddled up as he went over the starting line-up & the game plan…and he called my name, i¬†was starting at right center midfield!¬† one¬†name he didn’t call was that of the¬†guy who had been taunting me…anyways, i started that game and every remaining game that year–while my nemesis rode the pine…when i¬†walked out onto the field, i looked back at¬†him and smiled–my face, my posture, and every nonverbal part of my being…if¬†translated…said one thing: what’s up now, bitch?!

the words “he can play” were big for me…heartened me, gave me strength…in that moment,¬†my former coach¬†was lookin’ out¬†for me and i appreciated it then (and now)…and that¬†lookin’ out¬†is something i’ve tried to¬†adopt¬†in my own work¬†with¬†kids…especially, with kids¬†on the margins…you know,¬†the ones the rest of the world calls freaks

happy halloween!!!

sincerely–your friendly neighborhood spiderman

tradecraft: the “ten attitude”

one of the¬†first paid youth¬†positions i¬†held was¬†as a soccer coach with skyhawk’s sports academy in washington state…(it was a summer sports camp organization)…

i¬†was nineteen when i first started working with this organization, and at the time…i didn’t know jack¬†about working with kids…green as could be…a complete and total rookie!

looking back, i¬†realize that¬†this was a great place to start what has now become a life-long career for me, what has become my profession…honestly, i¬†owe a lot to this organization and to the people i¬†worked with during those summers (4)…it was soooooo influential for me–it still impacts my work today…more than 20 years later!!!

i¬†had played soccer since i¬†was five, i loved it, so this job was fun¬†for that reason¬†and¬†also because i¬†worked with a lot of guys i¬†played soccer with in high school…i¬†worked with¬†quite a few¬†friends…jeff, tuan, “ghandi”, john, hugh, ben and others–guys who loved soccer and loved the job!¬† we would travel around the state together, lead soccer camps (to kids aged 5-12 years old), scrimmage after camp times, and hang-out…what more could you ask for in a job?! working here (6 hours a day, 5 days a week), i learned how to motivate, inspire, encourage, train, coach,¬†listen and talk to kids…i also learned a lot of great games and stories and “how to tell stories” (each day after lunch,¬†the camp director would tell crazy-funny stories to the entire camp of kids–anywhere from 20-100 kids–keeping their attention and entertaining them for up to 30 minutes–so great)!!!

of all the things i¬†learned working here, the most important was “the attitude you bring to the job”…i still remember the first time i met the vice president of skyhawk’s…his name was dave…and he led us in some games and drills (just like he would do¬†if he were leading a group of kids) and he was extremely positive, enthusiastic and engaging…and in leading us in that way, he¬†was teaching¬†us about the energy and enthusiasm that¬†he (and the organization)¬† expected us to bring to camp each and every day…

and he asked us, “where are you, on a scale of 1-10, today?!” (ten being the highest, best/most positive¬†attitude you can have)…”do you have a ‘ten attitude’???”…the lesson here was simple…your attitude matters; it is vitally important¬†to¬†how you relate, motivate and coach these young people–it is a choice, choose¬†to be a ten!!!¬†

further reading: if you have an interest in this kind of thing, attitude and motivation…you should check out the book in the side-bar titled, “make the big time where you are” by frosty westering…one of the most successful college football coaches (ever) and a great human being!

cheers!

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