I love coaching my son’s soccer team for 7 and 8 year olds. It is a challenging and confusing age. Since they are so capable of physically doing more than they could just a year or two ago, it takes me by surprise when they cry, or feel frustrated that someone is calling them names or kicking them. Its like their physical strength is ahead of their emotional life.
For the last two weeks, I’ve had my players point out an opposing player who is kicking, punching, or taunting them. On one hand, I want them to just ignore it. But the truth is I think it is genuinely confusing to them. At home and at school, they are expected to follow the rules, and are punished for shoving back. So why would it be fair in a soccer game.Moreover when we agree to coach, we are asked to teach the kids about good sportsmanship. But when I’ve approached the opposing coaches about the parents and kids concerns, they’ve simply justified or rationalized their players behavior.
So when I returned to my players and they asked, “what should I do coach? Should I kick them back?” A part of me wants to say, “yeah, and kick the opposing coach too.” But instead, I’ve opted for telling them to take the anger and use it to boot goals, and steal the ball away. To me, they’ve got time to learn about playing dirty. I’d rather they learn to play the game the right way and let their emerging skill and talent do the talking.
And so far, it seems to work. They haven’t lost yet and they creamed those teams!