Saturday, October 13, 2012

U13 Boys - confusing season with great kids

Reflecting on the past U13 season is very difficult because I still can't figure out what happened.  I've started this reflection at least five times.

This was my third year with this group as a head coach.  The first two years (U11 and U12) we made progress.  This year, not so much, but in a weird way.

If you came to our sessions, things were going well.  Attendance was good, players were ready to work and we were moving forward.  From tryouts until our last practice, things went well at training.  I stand behind the training that was delivered.

When it came time to compete, that was a different story.  Getting the boys to even work through a warm-up was a challenge.  There was no disrespect or discipline problems, there was just this lack of willingness to get into game mode.  Perhaps a new voice would change that.

Most coaches complain that their players do not come to training as focused as they do in the games.  For us, it was the reverse.   If we played as well as we trained, it would have been a different story.  At training shots were driven, chances were taken 1v1, creativity was abound and challenges for loose balls were competitive.

The year was enjoyable and the boys are a great group of guys.  They were friendly and spent time together away from soccer, and that is always one of your goals.  But I still have to look inwards as to why they did not seem interested in competing.  I refuse to just say "They were not a good team" because it was more than the score line.

I had some theories:
  • It's my third year and I couldn't motivate them to play.
  • What I was selling was not what they were interested in buying.
  • At U13, other boys are getting big and they were not ready/willing to challenge bigger opponents.  As a whole, we were the smallest team.
  • I was too demanding and they were afraid to play.  I may not be the right coach for this group.
  • As a group, they were not interested in playing any higher than district level travel, rather than regional level. (not too far fetched a theory)
  • Some boys were no longer interested in playing soccer  (which I found out afterwards, which opens up other questions)
  • We had some injury problems, but that would only affect the score, not the enthusiasm at matches.
I am still asking myself questions before laying a final decision if I am returning or not.  My son has asked to switch sports for the last few years but this year declared his intentions in BOLD PRINT with no ambiguity.  It's funny because this was his best year, personally.  I coached before my sons played and will coach after, so my thinking on this team is independent of him.

I have questions to ask myself:
  • Do I enjoy coaching this team?  Yes
  • Am I the right coach for this group of players? Not so sure
  • Did I present the information in a way they were able to learn from me? At training, definitely.  At games, I don't believe I did.
  • Did they improve as individuals and as a team?  As individuals, I believe so.  As a team, no.
  • Did the players enjoy themselves?  Do they still want to play soccer?  Not sure.  Some are not playing next year.
  • Are they motivated to play with me as the head coach? I don't believe they are at games.  At training, yes.
  • Is my voice becoming background noise? At games, yes.  At training, no
  • Can I run an honest and open tryout after coaching the same group for 3 years?  I am not afraid to make changes after 3 seasons.  I made changes with my last group every year for 8 years.
Even after writing this, I am still unsure of how I would sum the season up.  Many parents say they would like me to come back, but they were not with us during pre-game, warm-up, half-time and post-game.  It was not always fun and I don't blame the boys.  This was my first time in 24 years that I didn't have a team's attention.  If one is distracted, it might be the player.  If 15 are distracted, it's the coach.

Games are part of the equation and I can't consider this a job well done unless the boys wanted to be there for training and competition.

I am still deciding what to do for next summer.

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