Soccer Skills

One of the minor casualties of Hurricane Sandy was the final third of Allie’s soccer season. She played on a team of six-year-olds and as the seemingly only available parent I became coach—with zero soccer experience or knowledge. I began the season with much trepidation, but ended up having a great time. It was so fun to watch the girls develop. They were just catching on when the storm came and the league had to cancel the remainder of the season.

I must admit it took me longer to catch on to coaching than it did for them to play soccer. As a novice coach I spent the first couple of weeks on-line reading everything I could about how to teach children soccer. The first line of almost every advice article was, “Relax and have fun.”

I kept imagining these poor girls going out for high school soccer and finding that they had been taught the wrong basic techniques by Coach Bigelow in six-year-old soccer and their soccer career was ruined before it even began. So I continued my googling.

I found videos on basic soccer techniques. They all began by saying, “Relax and have fun.”I studied dribbling, turns, passing, and strategies for offense and defense.

In the early practices I came equipped to try my new practice drills, but I spent most of my time retying all the girl’s shoes and putting ice packs on the bruises that came from wild kicks and out of control elbows.

I finally had the chance to talk to a very experienced former coach and I asked him the techniques of good coaching. He said, “Relax and have fun.”

I said, “Sure, that’s nice, I have heard it before, but how can I teach them to start passing to each other?”

He said, “You can’t. They’re too young. If you try to teach them a bunch of techniques it will only confuse and frustrate them and they will never come back.”

Oh, I finally got it. It is about relaxing and having fun. He also told me that they should never stand in lines or wait around to kick the ball. That only wastes time. Each practice should be about making sure all the girls are kicking the balls all the time. This way they become comfortable with the ball and will want to come back next season, then, maybe, they will be ready for some further instructions.

I tried it. It seemed to work. Everyone was happy, including me.

It is often the way in life that we try to make it a lot harder than it really is. Life is about doing the simple things right and not trying to do too much. This is a lesson that we especially need to relearn each holiday season. Jesus comes to us with no effort on our part, but we seem to think it requires a month of shopping, cooking, cleaning, negotiating, planning and bickering. My Advent sermons are going to focus on the simple gifts of Christmas—I think I will start by relaxing and having fun.

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