A few years ago, when my oldest son was 5 years old, I felt somewhat relieved when he told me he didn’t want to play hockey. He’s all about sports but he doesn’t like skating too much. I am a big hockey fan but I didn’t need my son to play. Not after I saw those crazy parents screaming their heads off looking at the ice. I thought it wasn’t a good way to teach him sports’ great values such as discipline, effort and team play. In fact, I was very happy when he asked to play soccer all year round.
I’ve been coaching my son for the past three years. I’ve tried to make sure he doesn’t get benched and that everybody on his team is treated fairly. But then I got hooked and I like coaching as much as my son likes playing soccer! The season just finished and I’ve learned a ton! Not really about soccer, but about psychology and relationships!
I guess there is a reason why we use the verb “play” when we describe a sport. We don’t “work” a soccer game, we play it. Sometimes, as parents, we forget that playing is way more fun than working hard and performing! Last year, I had great expectations of my son. He was a very good player and was expecting him to perform. I obviously asked him to take soccer way too seriously and he lost the fun he had to play soccer. We even argued a few times before or after a game. This wasn’t smart on my part. I knew he was able to play much better than this and found he was a bit lazy sometimes. I’m pretty sure he didn’t appreciate my remarks and constant flow of advice. This year, I started the season differently. I just played with him for fun and was laughing with him during the game. He ended-up being one of the most complete players in the league out of 100 players. He finished 2nd scorer for both the regular season and playoffs. He played at his full potential because he was “playing”.
To all parents around, if you want your kid to perform, ask him/her to have fun instead. If your child has talent, the results will come naturally.
Then again, I’m sure you have seen this many times; overhyped parents demanding very high expectations from their kid and their team as well. The players’ parents were forming a great crowd, but towards the end, expectations raised way too high. We heard parents asking players to “wake-up”, that “the game has started”, or simply asking bluntly “what are you doing??? Run!!!”. It was like the kids had no other option but to win.
As a coach (as witheverything in my life), I’m very intense, passionate and don’t regret anything. But putting pressure on children or talking bluntly to them thinking they will wake-up and find motivation is completely stupid. Motivation is a positive feeling, how can it be created from bad feelings or behaviors? I’ve taught my team to have fun on the field and to like playing soccer. But I’ve also had to teach the parents to have fun and to cheer instead of telling their kid what to do on the field!
I think we should bring this to a whole new level in life. Since when do you feel good when someone is telling you that you suck at something? Would you like your boss or your spouse to tell you that you don’t work hard enough? That you are not sweet enough? That you should put some more effort into what you do?
How about they tell you that you are good at something and that you should do it more often? That they like when you do this or that. Doesn’t feel better when people are telling you nice things? Well… why it has to be different when you are talking to your children?
During our 3rd game in the playoffs, we were losing 4 nothing at half time. Parents were discouraged, my assistant screamed at his son and some players were crying. I brought my team together and cheered them up. I told them it sucks to lose 4 nothing but we can make a comeback. The only thing we needed was to have fun playing soccer and not to think about the score. Believe it or not, my son scored 4 goals in the second half time and we won 6-4! This is what we call motivation!
Like any coach, I want my team to win. But more than anything else, I want the kids to have fun playing soccer. During the semi-finals, we almost lost the game. There were 10 minutes left in the game and it was still 1 nothing. I made the decision to put all my best players for the rest of the game, leaving 4 kids on the bench for 10 long minutes. I’ve never done that before. We did win 2-1 but I felt bad after that. I thought of the players that were left behind and about the parents that had to watch them wait until the game was over.
This wasn’t me. This wasn’t how I’ve trained my kids and how I acted during the past three years. I felt so bad that I went to apologize to the kids’ parents. This win had a sour taste. This is when I learned that winning isn’t everything. You are better off feeling good about yourself than winning the game!
I think my son never played better soccer than this year and our team was truly great. The secret of all this is that I’ve never had more fun coaching soccer before that. The whole team enjoyed playing and this is the key. This lesson learned goes far more behind kicking a ball. It’s about everything you do in life. If you don’t have fun doing something, then drop it!
This works with your job – as going to work thinking it sucks makes for a very long day.
This is true about your spouse – as kissing someone goodnight while thinking about another won’t make a great family.
This is the most inspiring thing you should do – drop what you are currently doing and shift towards something you like. Then wait for a few seconds and see how great it feels.
The soccer season is now finished… it’s only for three weeks since my son is playing indoor soccer during the winter. I’m not coaching indoors because I want to take a break and disconnect from soccer a little bit. I think it’s a good thing for my son that he gets other people to coach him as well and I truly want to make sure he still plays next summer instead of performing!
What about you, do you play or perform in your life?
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