My daughter Carli and I can talk about soccer for hours. As a former soccer player and coach, I am glad she has taken an interest in something we can really bond over. She likes everything about the game from beating an opponent to coming up with ways to work as a team. After each game, we talk about specific plays and ways to improve. We also play one on one quite often in the backyard.
At one point, my daughter mentioned she was getting tired of playing for her current team. She was concerned she was no longer learning anything new and felt like she was being used as a “water break girl," only being subbed in to give other players breaks. The variety of positions she was able to play was fine, but she was not getting enough experience on the field.
In another year Carli would be entering high school, and she wanted to see if she could step up her game to play at a higher level to make her high school team. So we sat down and talked about a plan on how to become a better player. First, we needed to find another club to try out for and begin working on her fitness and individual skills.
I was aware of a club soccer coach named Kate with a coaching style I thought would fit perfectly with my daughter’s personality. This coach is passionate about the game, and the fact that she is a female coach is a rarity. Since I am quite familiar with the club (my sons play there), I was able to talk about my concerns with the coordinator, and my daughter was placed on Kate's team.
Shortly after the training season started, Kate talked with Carli about her goals. She was quite surprised to hear my daughter was used as a second string player. Kate insisted that Carli's natural instinct to direct the field and her creative plays would be perfect for a center defender on a four man flat back. Being smaller than most girls, Carli was concerned that her size would be a challenge, but Kate reassured her that her tenacity and speed made up for it. Carli was willing to give it a try.
After the first game, I could see a difference in my daughter’s attitude. She was happy about her performance even though her team lost. She could feel the difference on the field because of the work she had done at home. She also liked the way Kate stayed positive and talked with the girls throughout the game.
Through the season, Kate continued to challenge the girls in practices and assigned them homework, such as research and ball skills. Once she even had the girls attend one of her semiprofessional soccer games. Carli was shocked to see the same plays Kate had taught her team unfolding at a higher level. She was also surprised to see Kate was playing the center defender position.
Carli turned to me and said, “Look, Kate is playing defender just like me!”
I can finally understand why Kate took such an interest in Carli and helped her better understand her role on the soccer field. Kate’s process to help girls understand the game is impressive. Because of the assignments, Carli was engaging in conversations with the other players and started sharing some creative plays to use on the field.
Once, Kate made a change on the field based on Carli’s suggestion, and Carli was astounded that Kate actually thought her plan was a great idea. I will never forget the ride home from that game. Carli never stopped beaming.
As the season came to a close, I saw vast changes in my daughter, her self-confidence being the greatest change. I cannot wait to see her take these changes to her high school team.
When the Carli, Kate and myself reflected on the season, Carli said she felt better about herself as a player. Since Kate was a female coach, she was less intimidated to talk with her. When Kate asked for Carli to set a goal for next year, she replied, “I want to be like you.” I think I saw tears form in Kate’s eyes.
Kate has left quite an impression on my daughter. She supported my daughter and believed in her abilities. Because of this, I know Kate will always be one of Carli’s favorite coaches. My daughter is now even showing interest in some of my coaching materials to get more ideas. I can see my daughter becoming an awesome female soccer coach someday. I can only hope!