Camden DeLaney Williams, son of two love struck soccer players, made us both proud the past two months giving his all to his first soccer team. At just 3 1/2 he was one of the youngest of the 3-4 yr old team, but there is no doubt he took it very seriously and gave his best effort. There were many lessons learned, by both player and coach (Mom & Dad), but overall it was simply the best.
I apologize now for the detail no one probably cares for except Jono & I, but this is what makes our world turn, so here goes nothing.
PRACTICES are a blast. This is usually my least favorite part of coaching. In fact, I had a bitter taste in my mouth from my U10 team last year when a parent confronted me for the way I handled “bullying.” Jono, though worn down by the end, never let it show. He led developmentally appropriate games like Walk the Dog, Car Wash, and Red Light, Green Light. The kids race to score, play keep away, and ALWAYS hit the playground after! (My apologies YMCA & LCSB). He ran every practice despite having to miss many games, and the parents were as impressed as I was. He should be payed millions for the gift he has and effort he gives. I helped when Kyle was willing and even got a compliment for my behavior management—well more like a “man im so going to use that with my kids.”
GAME #1 was a reality check. We have 14 players and 6 play at a time–this coaches worst nightmare. Most other teams had 4-8 kids show up, not sure how YMCA worked that out? Anyway, the first game may have been played more off the field than on. Luckily, we are all winners with YMCA and the score is officially NOT kept on the field or we would have kicked off the season 0-1. Of all the basics I’ve taught, I’ve never focused on ‘those white lines are a box you have to play in.’ That is where you should start with 3 year olds. I also thought it was pretty ironic that I received an email recommending an article on how inappropriate team sports are for this age group. Honestly, I did know this, as many coaches have shared that most youth soccer activities up until age 8 should be geared towards the individual. But, yes we are selfish parents too anxious to wait for our baby’s moment to shine. Plus, he’ll have more experience than those kids of parents who do what’s best for their child!
GAME #2 was frustrating to say the least. Jono was reffing so playtime was out of my control as I was on the sidelines with Kyle-bug. Camden spent 5 of his 7 minutes playing goalie. I didn’t see it coming so I was a little slow getting back there to offer some encouragement, aka step by step instructions on how to stop each strike. I feel like I failed him because in the blink of an eye the ball went right past him in slow motion as he stood completely out of position. I made up for it in the next four and a half minutes shouting my head off. No more goals scored in his house! He made no mention of that goal and didn’t really even react at the time, just kept his sweet LOVE OF THE GAME smile. However, two days later during normal car small talk, then store small talk, and even catching up brother small talk he casually mentioned, “a goal got scored on me.” I rethought team sports. Not sure when coping with these emotions is appropriate for a 3 yr old, but as a parent I’ll never be ready. I suppose kids are going to have to learn to deal with making mistakes that cost your team goals at some point. He definitely handled it better than I did the other night at super-six and definitely better than Jono would have. Hopefully we won’t be enrolling in therapy next.
GAME #3 was physical. The kids were getting it. And our older crew (about 5 boys that are 4 or close to it) is U-N-S-T-O-P-A-B-L-E. Unfortunately Camden is just a bit slower than the pack and started pushing and picking other people up and slamming them down to ground. Mommy red carded him out of the game and that was that.
GAME #4 was progress. Grandma, Nana & the Bootens covered cheering and Kyle. I coached my heart out and Camden told me and followed through with ‘being good’ on the field. I was a little disappointed that he seemed to prefer playing with Liam & Koby, but those are two cool cats. I tried to switch him to the other team that had only four players and this loyal pirate was not having that. Admirable team player right there!
GAME #5 was perfection. Betsy loved on Kyle and I enacted the genius plan Jono devised. Because we have two teams we consistently sub/switch out. We put our five youngest in together first, followed by our five oldest (all of which scored goals throughout the season). The youngest folks (including Cam) did not dominate, but they ALL touched the ball. Some had breakaways for the first time all season (Cam) and some almost scored. The best part was hearing the parents of these few SO excited. Our dominators went in and mostly made up for the goals, but had a bit more competition scoring. I could actually coach that crew though, so it was much more rewarding for them as well. If only it wasn’t over!