This is a relevant question I was recently asked by the principal to be the assistant coach of the school soccer team when the former coach goes on maternity leave. This job might seem odd for a chemistry teacher at first, but, in fact, it is not. We are often called upon to do double duty in school, especially since the budget is tight for new staff. The administration loves it when we agree to work in the sports program to keep it alive and vibrant. I, for one, am willing to help. Sports are vital in kids’ lives, and I would hate to see an extra-curricular program like soccer cut because it is peripheral in some minds to basketball, softball, and volleyball. Acceptance for soccer in the US has been long in coming; but when it finally hit, it was with a hard smack. The students love it—girls and boys—of all ages. It may not be the great American pastime yet, but it is certainly close with school kids.
While I believe in keeping soccer on the docket in principle, I also happen to have played it as a teen myself. I wonder if the principal knew this when he made his request. Regardless, it is a fact and I am probably the best choice among the faculty for this role. The coach is so grateful because she wants what she started to continue full-fledged for the months she is gone. I get it and will follow her lead as to the game rules and practice routines. This will involve some afterschool time, of course, so the students can stay in shape for the league events. Parents take the games seriously and expect top performance from their offspring. I believe they are more competitive than the children. This means I am charged with the task of making them the best players they can be. Soccer skills, as in any sport, are all about repetition, repetition, and more repetition to build muscle memory and that can be learnt a lot easier using the right soccer training equipment which our school luckily has. Once it is learned, a student can go on to excel in more advanced programs. I am part of establishing life-long patterns.
There are different schools of thought on coaching. You can be a tyrant, yell, and demand success. You can be more encouraging and supporting behind the scenes as well, along the lines of Vince Lombardi in football. He revolutionized the approach and will follow suit. Kids can take only so much criticism. Good coaching entails less attack and more love. But within this framework, you can be consistent and rigorous. Meanwhile, I have to bone up on strategies to get ready for my new role, and it won’t hurt to watch a game or two.