By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck
After ten years, my daughter’s involvement in club soccer finally concluded as her U18 team finished its season. All the girls, some who have been together the entire decade, will be moving on to play at various colleges. It was sad for the girls and sad for the parents to see it end. At their final practice, their coach asked them all to name their favorite memory from their time with the club. He was surprised by what he heard.
The girls had been through an incredible journey in these ten years. They’d won state championships, played for national championships, been ranked consistently in the top ten in the nation and sometimes as high as number one. Annual playoffs took them to places like Seattle, Chicago, Richmond, Denver, San Francisco and New Jersey. Their regular-season games had them traveling throughout Southern California, Arizona and Nevada.
The coach was expecting these “hardened veterans” to all relay their favorite moments on the field of competition. He was certain he’d hear about the game-winning goal scored or the championship trophy hoisted. But not one girl mentioned anything about scoring or winning. Their favorite memories were the fun things they did together, usually having nothing to do with soccer.
One girl recounted the time they were on a trip at a regional tournament and they kidnapped a teammate while dressed up and disguised in towels. Another chose the time when they made a video to the “Call Me Maybe” song and posted it on YouTube. One girl’s favorite memory was when she was nine years-old and won a sweatshirt from the club President by hitting it down off the goal net while a bunch of others were also trying. She mentioned that it was particularly special as the President awarded it to her in front of everyone and told her great job.
What does this tell us? Seems to me it means there is a whole lot more to youth sports, even at the highest levels of competition, than the result on the field. While we parents often measure a team’s success in terms of wins and losses, that is just the tip of the iceberg. There is much more below the surface we often don’t see.
We talk to our kids about how they played, how they feel, what they could have done better, differently. We often forget that the bonding that takes place before and after games, the friendships forged while sharing a common purpose might be just as important. We often forget that these are really just kids, after all.
When the final game ended and the girls knew their club career was over, they all got into a huddle, arms around each other’s shoulders, and shared one last thing – a good cry. At the time we parents thought the girls were sad they’d played their last game together. What I realize now is that they were sad to be losing so much more. They hadn’t just been teammates. They had been best friends. They were saying goodbye to their family.
Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@