You can only win the game you’re playing

Sprout’s soccer season is over. We made it!

She was playing on an Under-8 team: 4-on-4 with no goalies. It was her first team of any kind, and the first time I ever coached a sport.

My qualifications? Glad you asked:

  • I was a parent of a child in the league
  • I have successfully directed one youth theater production
  • I played more than one full season of FIFA 64 when I was in high school
  • I was willing to do it

So I did some homework on drills and strategy. Asked other parents for advice. Quickly watched Ted Lasso. Bought some colorful cones for practices.

Then we lost every game.

Don’t act surprised.

After those first few losses, I felt like I was doing them a disservice. The other teams were punishing. And some of the coaches encouraged their kids to rub it in our faces.

I wasn’t about to go down that road and try to respond in kind. The world has too many toxic sports parents already, thanks.

I stopped attaching my sense of success from the win-loss record, and it got easier to focus on what could help them.

If I only pushed them to win, it would’ve meant the only way to have fun would be to win.

There was no Gordon Bombay moment coming. I stopped looking for it.

Instead, I motivated them to get back up when they fell. To line back up as fast as they can if the other team scores a goal. To care more about the next point than the final score.

Here’s how we ended the season:

  • The team had fun
  • The parents told me they were glad their kids had a nice coach this year who kept things positive instead of the jerks they saw coaching other teams
  • Several players had their best performances in the final games, even when we were losing
  • Sprout actually wants to play again next season

So no, I’m not going to get any offers from the Premier League. I played the game that made sense to me, and it turned out pretty well.