Ever thought about coaching? I always have. Even when I was a kid, still with years of playing left ahead of me, I was fascinated by coaching. I watched all the big sports movies and imagined which coach I would be most like: a total hardass like Coach Carter or Coach Boone? A wild-eyed eccentric like McConaughey in We Are Marshall? Or maybe just an angry old drunk like Patches O’ Houlihan? (RIP)
Now at the risk of sounding like a total nerd, I should clarify that I always preferred playing lacrosse, but I’m still excited to be coaching a high school JV team this spring. We’re one game into the season and I’d like to share with you some of what I’ve learned so far.
Try-outs: When coaches cut players and say “this is the hardest thing we have to do,” it may sound cliche but it’s the god’s honest truth. We had one week to learn the names of and evaluate 38 kids to cut down to 34. What I learned: the eye test doesn’t work. A couple of our guys who are going to get playing time this year look like total dusters. I’m talking storm troopers, second-bar syndrome, soccer cleats, neon gloves, all that stuff. If you’re coaching, do not judge a book by its cover. Some of the dusters out there can play.
Scrimmages: I got to break out another cliche: “finally playing against a different color jersey.” Did they respond? Eh. We got narrowly edged in our first scrimmage by a much bigger team. We bounced back in the next two scrimms when our guys realized the opposing goalies were scrubs and started bombing from 15+. A coach’s dream.
This is another tricky situation. Winning is fun and you don’t want to take the wind out of your boys’ sails but you also hate to see them developing habits that won’t work against a good opponent. The solution: sic your meanest pole on the offending party in practice to facilitate their learning.
Injuries: I’ve been away from high school sports for five years and it’s stunning how much concussion awareness has changed the climate. We’ve had three kids miss time with concussions in as many weeks. It could be bad luck but it’s scary to consider that I only saw a total of two concussions diagnosed to teammates in my entire four years of high school.
The final lesson I’ve learned is that these guys are children. I had one player miss a scrimmage because he sprained both wrists trying to leap frog a friend in the halls. A goalie asked permission to take off his chest protector on the bus after a game. They fight over snacks and jersey numbers and ask a million questions that ten seconds of thinking could probably answer.
But they’re my guys and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We’re 1-0 after our first regular season game, where we stomped a team I never beat in high school. We outhustled, outperformed and definitely outcoached them. And even though we still have a lot of work to do, I’m pumped to be on board.