This past Spring, I figured I would coach u10 soccer for the Cape Coral Soccer Association. How hard could it be? I would sign up, it will get me out of the office for a little bit and maybe I can teach the kids a thing or two. The kids will probably just run around, screaming and kicking balls with more energy than I would ever know what to do with it. It’s probably great for the parents too, they can just drop their kids off for an hour or so and do whatever they want.
As I pulled into the fields I see a completely full parking lot. I think to myself, “Why is this place so full?” As I watch the kids going to practice, I notice that the parents seem to have enough supplies with them to go camping for 2 days. Chairs, balls, sunscreen, hats, blankets, bug spray, cameras and cell phones. They were not only prepared but they were also apparently staying. C’mon people I thought, it’s only practice. I initially thought that I was going to be much more excited to meet my team and then all of a sudden my excitement turned to an almost near breakdown. As I looked around, most of my team was dressed like little professional athletes, one kid was bouncing a ball off of his foot over and over like it was magnetized. Another was dribbling the ball full steam around the other kids and one kid was taking shots on goal with enough power to take me out. These kids obviously took their soccer very seriously and the parents had just as much dedication as they were there for every game and every practice.
Coaching a new team of boys is like having to put together a 4 course meal and you have no idea what ingredients you have in the cupboard. I’m looking at these boys and they are staring at me and I am overwhelmed and its only the first practice. First order of business was to quickly access each ones strengths. I was so relieved when the first practice was over and realized quickly that I needed to adjust and really get a game plan into place. We started playing games and the players never ceased to amaze me with their tenacity and persistence. As the season progressed, we were working harder and harder as a team and I continued to push them even more because they had that genuine vicious want to win. We were starting to enjoy both the highs and lows as a team together. We as a team rejoiced together when we scored a goal and we also were there for each other when we were scored on. We truly were starting to become a team to reckon with and the other teams were starting to take notice. What was so nice to see was who supported these kids. Not only were the parents there but so were aunt’s and uncles, grandparents and friends.
As we played more games, I watched each boy strive to do better and constantly challenge their own status quo. They believed in themselves more and more and continued to push themselves to the limits. It was my job to push them and like a Momma bear watching over her cubs, sometimes it wasn’t easy but I reminded them over and over again that pain is temporary and glory is forever. Every game was more and more intense.
We ended up in the finals weekend. As I looked at our team, I couldn’t believe how the boys had evolved into such a well oiled machine and everyone knew they had a job to do and took it very seriously. We ended up playing 2 games on Saturday and 2 games on Sunday and played with all of our hearts. I have to be honest and say that I hope to never forget the feeling and the sights that I saw when the final whistle blew on our final game and we won the championship. It was so amazing to watch the kids and their dedicated families all celebrate what we have worked so hard for. The parents were just as amazing as the kids because they also sacrificed their time to always be with their children. It was truly a big win for all of us because we each had our own pivotal role to play and everyone pitched in as a team.
These boys are 10 and soon will become teenagers, young men and before we know will be full grown men. At 10 years old, they have drive, they have goals and they have the absolute will to win. They also have their families behind them supporting them and giving them the sound foundation they need to move successfully forward in life no matter what they do. I have learned so much from them and know that they will live a prosperous life going forward because if they have that fire in them now, it will only get better and better. Thank you to all of the players for an amazing season and to the dedicated diehard families who are always there for their kids. May your dedication and drive stay with you all through life.