One of the best decisions I ever made was the decision to coach high school soccer. I started as a volunteer, mostly as a way to get to know girls while I was a Young Life leader, but that quickly turned into an official assistant coaching position. Eventually I was lured away by lots of money (not) to start a program at a local charter school.
There are many reasons I love coaching – I love the game of soccer, I love working with high school girls, I love building something from the ground up. Still, my favorite part of coaching is the opportunity to lead young women in a unique season and in a unique context.
As an assistant coach, my responsibilities for the emotional side of the team were clear and easy to fulfill. I was able to be the kinder, softer side of the coaching staff. I could easily focus extra attention on a single girl if she needed encouragement, correction, or advice. As a head coach, however, this balance is a little trickier.
As a head coach, I am responsible to not only the individuals, but also the team. My strict and intense side comes out when I am fighting to forge individuals into a team in a few short weeks; a time when I am admittedly not the most approachable. To be honest, I love introducing difficulty and hardship (aka running) into their lives because I thrive off the energy created by individuals sacrificing for one another and achieving something greater than themselves.
There is immense satisfaction in teaching young women to lead themselves and their peers – especially through challenge. I am elated when a girl is able to push through her mental barriers and realize she possesses a strength she never knew she had.
Still, all of these emotions and goals are secondary to the greater goal of preparing these women for life. As high schoolers, these young women are just beginning to understand who they are; their unique gifts, strengths, and weaknesses. As a coach, I get to bring clarity and encouragement as they figure themselves out. I have the privilege of a natural platform to speak wisdom (I hope), encouragement, and truth.
The opportunity to bring clarity and wisdom(?) is not unique to coaching, but coaching provides more daily, uninterrupted time than almost any other opportunity outside of parenting. The girls on the team are about to enter one of the most tumultuous seasons of life. Someone once told me, your life will change more between 18-28 than any other time in your life. As I have yet to reach age 28 I cannot verify this personally, but it seems to hold true for me so far!
As a coach, my goal is not only to prepare these young women for the soccer field, but also for the onslaught of challenges they will face when they leave home and/or the safety of college for the first time. Lessons like perseverance, building mental strength, and overcoming obstacles will serve them well in life and on the soccer field…That is, if they don’t die from running first!