I had already been an assistant coach for one season and was coming back to help once more. Once I arrived our recreational director informed me of the need for a head coach and asked if I would lead a squad of my own.
Three minutes later, I’m sitting there with a few coaches making the list of who I wanted on my team. Because of the timing, I didn’t have the luxury of seeing the tryout session. First, I chose any familiar names of kids I had previously assistant coached; then, I was forced to evaluate players by their parents’ baby-naming abilities.
One of the wild-cards, the last kid I picked for the season, was a 10-year-old girl. When I met her at the first practice, I wasn’t positive where I wanted to place her.
In contrast, one of my intentional choices that season included a football player on the roster. This dude ate concrete for breakfast. My son had once played against him in a tournament. The kid embodied aggression.
Halfway through practice, I hear a child wailing behind me. I turn to see our football jock laid across the ground and our little blond-haired girl standing over him laughing. She had dropped our linebacker. This happened multiple times that night. Being the well-mannered coach I am (sarcasm), I tried to hide my excitement because I love mixed martial arts. I may have gotten too emotional whenever she dropped him on the turf. OK, I carried on the entire practice “fan-boying” at the knocking out one of the strongest kids I’ve ever met. She laughed in his face while he cried out to God to make it stop. And she said something to the tune of “Your God can’t help you, YOU BELONG TO ME NOW.”
“Your God can’t help you, YOU BELONG TO ME NOW.”
Her dad came after practice and said, “She ain’t played in a while. She’s been busy getting her black belt in Taekwondo.” My heart extracted itself from my chest. Firstly, black belt? I didn’t realize people checked that off their bucket lists so early. Second, my emotions took hold of my body. I laughed. I cried. The next morning, during my mirror-flexing exercises, I caught myself saying “Dude, there’s a ninja on your team!” Merry Christmas. A few seasons later, this girl would become the leader of our defense. Well, she WAS the defense and anyone else on that side of the field, her minions.
They Can’t Win If They Can’t Score
Our team motto that year: they can’t win if they can’t score. Soccer, unlike football or baseball, doesn’t always have a “winner”. In soccer, if you tie, you tie. The game ends either way. Sometimes you’re happy to tie; sometimes you’re devastated. It’s a part of the game, and we need to embrace it.
If you don’t want teams to blow your face off with score differentials. (This means getting your butt kicked into your face. Don’t think too hard on that one.) You’ve got to have a defense. Now, can you lean on one good player to be the one who scores a bunch? Sure. But trying to milk eight or nine goals from a player each game to offset the other team’s points is stressful on you and the seven-year-old you’re expecting to cover the spread. It’s too much to expect from a kid that’s just trying to impress his mom, hoping she’ll stop screaming obscenities at him, the refs, and you even though, nine goals a game can’t cure a drinking problem or whatever’s wrong with that crazy mom.
Instead, let’s be realistic. We can’t bet the farm on one child. What if they get hurt or they play volleyball instead? What if his mom catches his dad with her best-friend, and they move the family to Tucson because it’s what’s best for their “reputation”? Then what, Coach? How are you going to cover that great and mighty score-canyon coming your way? (The score-canyon: What happens when one team doesn’t have a defense or offense.)
Start with the defense, and you’ll not have a canyon to cross. Because, once again, if they can’t score, they can’t win. It’s basic math; if your team prevents the offense’s attacks, the other team walks away with no goals, a broken heart, and an after-game speech that causes them to see a therapist when they’re older.
So, since we know this simple rule, let’s build a team with that in mind.
Great Defenses Frustrate
Coaching is a difficult thing for
you us mortals. As a coach, we have to make quick decisions. Who goes in when? Who needs to come out? Who is kicking the free kick? Did someone bring snacks? Should I have married at such a young age? Did I take myself off the market too soon? Basic decisions while everyone is watching. This can be super stressful. It only gets more difficult to coach if we are frustrated.
Defenses create frustration in every game. While a defense that isn’t blocking goals can anger you as their coach, a well-performing defense may stress the other coach to clinical depression. Pretty much, the defense is always pissing on someone. We want to insure any urine is being sprayed towards the other coaches, not us.
My best team was formed by selecting the defense first. We chose our defensive stars from previous years. We had guys on the front with a solid ability to score, but I wanted to make sure they could do their job without worrying about the defense.
Great Defenses Take Away Anxiety
The best anxiety medicine for coaches is a great defense. It’s comforting when your back line can defeat everything the other team throws at it.
Strong D’s will allow your offense to take more chances. They stop worrying whether losing the ball will cause the other team to score.
Many coaches play their worst players on defense. My heart can’t take such tom-foolery. Your players should know they are special when they are chosen to play in the back.
There is NO better compliment than hearing other coaches refer to your defense as a brick wall. But, you first have to be intentional on what it takes to make a solid defense.
If you enjoyed this please check out my other article on choosing great defenders.
Father of four boys and married to a smoking hot wife. A coaching enthusiast, comedian, and author of fart jokes dressed as blogs.
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