Lessons Learned in Soccer

It has been an insane three weeks for my wife and I and I am just now getting back to writing and following Twitter again.

Coaching has changed my life.  I am the varsity soccer coach for our school and I had the opportunity to take our team to a tournament with schools from all over Korea and Japan.  We ended up winning the tournament (one of the team goals this year) but there was also a lot of good time talking with players about school, soccer, food…you name it.

The most poignant moment came when one my seniors called me out during a halftime meeting.

from www.stripes.com

We were in the finals and our first half was a little rough.  During halftime, many of my players looked angry, so I asked what was wrong (thinking they would be working things out with one another).

Jona (in white), a senior on the team, told me that the game wasn’t fun because all I had been doing for the past few games was telling them constantly what they had been doing wrong.  He also said a few guys on the team (underclassmen) had been down because I had ridden them pretty hard in one particular game.

I didn’t expect that at all.  Our midfield and defense weren’t working well together and I expected the conversation to focus more on that…not on how I was acting.

It made me think about my attitude in the classroom versus on the field.  In the classroom, I’m a teacher…I’m supportive and encouraging to kids that don’t “get it.”  I wouldn’t ever dream of telling a student they keep blowing assignments or tasks and that they’d better get their head straight.  Why do I do that on the field?

One [cop-out] answer might be that I’m an American and American coaches are big and loud.  Another might be that I see coaching and teaching as two different venues that need different personalities…and in one sense, that’s true.  I do feel more free to “ride” players a little more vocally or to call someone out on the field.  But, my players are still students and I need to teach them the game…I can’t expect more than what I’ve taught, and that’s something I forgot this season.

I’m grateful for the relationships we form each year.  I’m very proud of all my students and very proud of my team this year.  I’m more proud, though, of the leadership shown by Jona and that he was willing to call me out and speak for his teammates.  It was a simple statement and correction that changed the way I think about coaching.

Needless to say, the second half was much quieter from the bench and we went on to win.  The victory, however, was built on trust and open communication…and that’s a sweeter feeling than anything.


Jona Park is a senior graduating this year.  He plans on attending and playing soccer at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL next fall.

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