Benny Sip
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A Letter To The U-11 Soccer Coach

We are resistant to Change because we think it’s insulting. Those that consider change as an opportunity, as a moment of innovation, as inspiring and as an opportunity to nurture our young are going to take this, they are going to run with it.
— Todd Beane (TOVO Academy, Barcelona)

Dear U-11 Soccer Coach,

 

You need to Change.

I know, it’s not always a “nice” thing to hear,

Change.

But trust me, from the bottom of my heart,

I’m trying to be kind.

 

If it helps you to exchange Change for something like adapt, that’s fine.

Perhaps a lesser blow to the ego,

Still, you need to Change.

It’s in the best interest of your kiddos, by the way.

You know, those little people that show up everyday to work with you,

The ones that put their hopes, dreams and ambitions in your hands,

Yes, if not for yourself,

Change for them.

 

I’ve met you somewhere…

On a course, on the sidelines, in some impromptu grocery store parking lot,

You talk a great game when it comes to player development,

“You know, it’s us coaches that really bugger things up.”

“We need to take a step back and JUST LET THE KIDS PLAY!”

“Less of this, a little more of that.”

 

I hear you. 

Like I said, “your talk is sweet.”

However, I suggest you start walking.

What was it that some guy once wrote?

“Tread softly, for you tread on my dreams.”

Yeah something like that…

For those smiling kiddos.

 

A forewarning about this whole Change thing though,

You probably aren’t going to.

It’s not that you don’t want to,

Deep down you really do,

It’s just that Change is hard,

Like really hard.

You know sort of like six pack abs,

It’s gonna take some pain to get there,

That whole break the muscle down then build it back up again cycle thing,

Most of us aren’t really cut out for that kinda shit. 

Excuse my french.

I can’t blame you.

 

You say you want your players to develop to their fullest potential,

I’m just not so sure you’re prepared to go through all the Pain to give them that chance.

You know, like handing back that 11th grade trophy from last weekend's tournament.

I know, I know,

It was supposed to sit on your mantle for the next 30 years!

It's painful to give all that up,

The dust you could have collected.

 

I’m just not so sure you’re prepared for the losing,

The downcast eyes and incessant rumbling from the sidelines,

You know, parents, opposition coaches...

“What is this coach doing?”

“Doesn’t she want to win?”

“Why don’t they practice finishing more?"

"Have you ever seen these kids practice long range shooting?" 

"Why don’t they kick the ball forward more often?”

“Is this coach trying to develop losers?”

“You've got to teach the kids how to win!”

“Make the run! Shoot! Mark up! Tackle!”

 

Asking parents to "shut up" is easy.

Educating them,

Working with them,

Putting yourself on the line, 

That's tough.

 

U-11 Soccer Coach,

You don’t really want to deal with all of that.

 

We haven’t even begun talking about the football yet.

I'm sorry to say it...

But, you’re not really concerned about what these players will look like in 5 years time,

You know when they are 16, 17, 18 years old,

When there's no more hiding.

When the marshmallows are all gobbled up...

 

How do I know you don't care?

Because I’ve seen your teams play,

I’ve observed your players,

Watched them on the ball, 

They are not friends with it at all,

They don’t try to play together, as in, pass to one another,

They can't...

 

You keep screaming at them to “keep the ball.”

I can’t help but laugh out loud,

I’m sorry,

It's just that I keep envisioning some parent screaming at their 10 year old,

“Play Stairway To Heaven!”

"But Dad, I just picked up the guitar,"

Oh…

 

Look on the bright side,

The players are capable,

Capable of playing far beyond your wildest dreams,

But you'd have to Change,

And it would be the best thing you've ever done,

For the kiddos,

Like I said though,

You won't.

 

By now, you're thinking one of two things,

He’s got a point...

or

This guy’s a total jackass.

Either way, you're probably right.

Isn't that how it always works?

 

Dear U-11 Soccer Coach,

Continue you as you are...

or

Change.

I’ve been where you are.

I get it. I really do. I feel for you.

But, I feel more for your kids.

Why?

Because I was one of them.

What was it again?

 

“I have spread my dreams beneath your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

Yes, that was it.

Ben Sippola