Play Fair & Have Fun

Child-running-flying-Kick-000039195224_LargeKneeling on one foot on the humid grass the other night, I told my soccer players that the other team were a grade younger so there was no reason we couldn’t win the game. Smaller might mean faster or more easily navigating, but we are stronger, taller, older, wiser.

We lost.

I jinxed the game before we even began to play. I fear I set my kids up for failure.

As the coach of a 4th-grade soccer team, it’s my duty to be equal parts nurturing and encouraging, tough and loving. With my co-coach, I must teach the kids how to strategize, how to build endurance, how to see the whole field, how to work well with others.

How to play into their strengths and accept their weaknesses.

How to shake it off. How to “man up.” How to know when it’s ok to cry and how to know when the tears are just drama because Mom is on the sidelines.

The day was graying into night as two planes sailed overhead in the clouds. We’d all had a long day. But the sprightly third-graders plowed forward, undeterred, almost mad in their determination to score, score, score. Perhaps because they were playing older, bigger kids.

Final: 3-1.

Bummer. Big time.

Get-That-Ball-000002375303_MediumAnd yet it wasn’t the score that necessarily got us down. It was the lack of cohesion, despite dedicated attempts to play well. And it was the dirty-play from the other side, kids elbowing other kids in the stomach and no call from the ref.

(Please note: this blog is not intended to offend the other team. It is intended to be a reflection on my perspective of the game and how I could have coached better. That said, if this blog offends you, figure out why it touches a nerve.)

They’re little, they need guidance.

And yet, we’re older, supposedly wiser, and we need guidance, too.

The other day I came across a blog about what the public relations industry could learn from soccer. One tip: know your position and play it well.

Another tip: call to your teammates. Work together. Break down the silos.

We talk about that in our grown-up offices, but I see now that the silo-focus starts at a very young age. I see it with my own son, a great athlete for sure, who wants to manage the ball all by himself. I can almost hear his thinking: I’ve got it, I can take it all the way.

Perhaps he can. And sometimes he does.

But more often than not, that momentum from the I-can-do-it-all-by-myself puffing-up sends the ball on an angled trajectory past the goal and off the field, giving the ball to the other team for a corner kick.

It happens so often, to all of us! We think we can carry it all the way to score but no, we really do need help, we need to play with the team.

Teamwork.-Pile-of-hands-000048100254_MediumThere are sports that are solo: tennis, running, biking. But even then, you go farther and have more fun when you’re part of something bigger, a marathon, say, or a tournament.

We need other people in order to soar. We simply cannot do anything worthwhile alone. And so we must recognize our strengths and play to them while we also let others step in where they are strongest and alleviate our weaknesses.

The greatest strength is the ability to see the good in everyone around us and let that shine. We don’t always need to stand center stage.

The world is made up of billions of people for a reason. We are not put here to sit in isolated rooms all alone; we cannot possibly make an impact by ourselves.

We must recognize the power of coming together, the power of community, to realize all of our dreams.

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