Lately, I have been reminded about why I started coaching. In my first experience as a coach, at age 17, I worked with Andy Ciamitarro and Scott Moser, coaching a U14 NORCO team. I had a wonderful experience, so much so that I have coached teams every year since. Recently a few things have come to light for me that have reminded me as to "why" I became an effective coach with that U14 NORCO squad, and why I continue to find a motivation to coach even today. I will be honest, I didn't start coaching because I was interested in player development secrets, tactical insight, or to create a magic formula for winning games. I didn't spend time thinking of those concepts, I was young, and I didn't know what I didn't know about the sport, but I knew I liked soccer from this new teaching perspective.
As you may, or may not know, SLSG has recently established an international relationship with College Cup El Salvador, a program aiming to place children from San Salvador in American universities. One of the multiple steps that a player participating in the College Cup program needs to take on their way to being considered for an American university, is to train and play in St. Louis and stay with a local homestay. Today, September 28, 2018, twenty-two Salvadorian youth players will arrive in St. Louis and will be met by host families. As this process has evolved, I was caught up in the technical piece of the visit; training and competition schedule, extracurricular activities, and yes the homestay logistics. But over the last week, the host families and families of the visiting players were connected and unexpectedly, this is what reminded me as to why I continue to be involved in coaching.
I have received numerous emails from Salvadorian parents, thanking the club for extending hospitality. But more importantly, they see this program as something much more. They are just grateful for the opportunity for their child to develop relationships with families in America. Yes, I've heard positive things about the potential soccer experience, but there were lengthy chunks of emails, like the one from a father in San Salvador that pointed out that this trip offers more than soccer, but friendship, community, and culture.
“First of all, we would like to express our deep gratitude, as a family, for the promotion that you and Saint Louis Scott Gallagher give to the beautiful sport that soccer is; but, more importantly, for the promotion of soccer as a good way of creating friendship and twinning between people and building community among different families ... and even more wonderful when those families are from different countries and cultures!!.
As today approached and I began to receive more and more emails such as this, I obviously thought about the overall impact the College Cup program can have on kids from San Salvador and St. Louis. I then started to reflect on relationships that we find in youth sports. The more I reflected the more I was reminded about the importance of the coach-player relationship.
“We are also very excited about the fact that our girls are going to share an important part of their lives with different soccer players from Saint Louis, but also with different SL´s families. They will have a great opportunity to get to know each other, at least a little bit of each other and, hopefully, build the first bonds of friendship and human bridges that could become an strong human connection in the long term future.’
When I look back at the NORCO team and coach Andy, it was his connection with the boys that helped make the team successful. The team won its share of games, tournaments, placed players in college, and even was the first team for a couple of players who eventually became professionals. Andy taught me that it takes real commitment, both time, and investment, to truly relate to a group and help move them in one direction as a team.
As a Staff, we continue to try and create healthy, but demanding, relationships with players to better help them achieve both individual and collective rewards. Often as coaches, we get caught up in the technical side of coaching and forget about the building and maintaining of relationships and how these relationships help the team succeed. I believe successful coaches often times start coaching for one reason, but often times discover they love coaching for other reasons. Those "discovered" reasons usually include being involved in "connections" with players, parents, and peers, as well as the teaching of how to develop connections or relationships inside a group or team. Yes, I do love the technical teaching of soccer, the manipulation of tactics to impact a game, but this College Cup program has reminded me about the "why" I coach and I'm looking forward to building some new friendships this week!
Below are two, 1 minute videos that can be found on the Positive Coaching Alliance DevZone website. I think you will find them both insightful and will confirm your internal motivations.
Thank you for taking the time to build relationships with the players, thank you for taking the time to read this important notion.