As a parent and a coach it is my responsibility to remind both children and parents of this. As a soccer coach, I pull my child out a game more than I than I do others' kids. It's not because I'm mad or she isn't doing well. She's a very strong, versatile player. However, we have other girls on our team who are not as strong, who have just started playing, and, they, too, need experience. Getting in there and doing it is how they learn. During practices, the other coach and I don't let our daughters pair up together often in practice because we believe in having stronger players help out those players who may need a confidence boost. You can be the greatest player on your team, but if you are a ball hog, no one wants to play with you. In a quote from Mia Hamm she stated, "It has never been all about me. If it had, this would have been a really lonely journey."
When I played soccer, I scored one goal in all of the time I played. One. Was I such a horrible player because I only scored one goal? No. I wasn't the best, but I was pretty decent. Even though in all my seasons playing I only scored one goal, I assisted in many. I made my goalie have to work a lot less with my defensive skills. Just because you can score a goal doesn't make you a good player. Rarely do you see someone get the ball at the one end of the field and score a goal at the opposite end without help. That help can come as other team members making sure the opposite team can't get to the ball, but it's still help. If we put one player on the field against a full team, I guarantee that one player wouldn't be able to run down and score a goal nearly as often as if they had an entire team helping them out.
As a coach, the other coach and I make our girls play all of the positions, whether they like them or not. We see where they are best suited and where they like to play, and mostly stick to that, but we make sure they get experience in all of the positions. Why? Why would we put girls in positions they aren't strong or confident in, especially if we may lose? To give them experience. To show them it's a team effort. To help them become better players all around. It's not all about winning. Is winning more fun? Definitely, but not if that's all you are out there to do.
At the start of a season, you can see which kids want to be out there and which ones are being forced to play. You can see which kids are told they need to go score as many goals as they can. You can see which kids are told they are the best ones out there. And, something, I didn't think would ever happen, you can see which kids are told they aren't good enough. There is a balance in there that needs to be found. If you don't have a coach that teaches this balance, then it's your job as a parent to do it. As parents, we need to build them up, but not to the point where they are cocky. If your child thinks they are always the best, then when they lose, I promise they are going to be a poor loser. They will blame their team, every time. As a parent, I stop the negative talk immediately. If my kid starts to say, "[this person] just stood there and didn't run after the ball," I give her 5 examples of where she could have done better. However, I also give her examples of where she did great and of where her teammates did great. Let me repeat that. I give her example of where she did great and where her teammates did great. Because she is part of a TEAM.
This isn't just about soccer. It's about all sports. I just happen to have a coach perspective on soccer as well as a parent. My daughter also plays softball. I have been so very fortunate because, in all of her years playing, she has always had amazing coaches (except that one year I coached her and vowed I'd never coach her ever again). Sunshine loves playing softball. She's alright at it. Is she great? No. Is she terrible? No. She has fun playing. That's what's important. This past summer, she desperately wanted to pitch. She asked the coach every game if she could pitch. He promised she would get to pitch. The first time he put her in, she walked every player. Every one. (At this age, there's actually no walking, it's 4 balls and the coach comes in and pitches.) He didn't pull her though. He let her pitch the full inning (there is a mercy rule of 5 runs). Was it a quick inning? It wasn't. Because she had a team behind her. When the coach came out to pitch, the rest of the team had her back and helped so the other team didn't score 5 in a row. Did the girls on her team complain about her pitching? No. They cheered her on. Her coach taught them the importance of being a team. Did they lose that game? Yes. Did any of the team members blame my kid? No. Neither did the parents. This could have gone two ways. It could have made her want to give up and never pitch again. But, because of the response of her coaches, teammates, and the parents, it made her want to try harder to do better next time. So, she practiced. She spent hours pitching to the throwback, to her brother, to me and her father. The next time the coach put her in to pitch, She struck a kid out. The rest were either walked or got hits, but it was improvement. She only pitched two innings all season, but they made her so happy. Had she had a coach that was all about winning and only playing players who were "good" in certain positions, she would have never gotten a chance. She would have been taught a very different lesson. Unfortunately, she would have learned the lesson her brother did when he was young playing baseball, which is why he no longer plays.
Even sports that aren't seen as "team" sports require you to work hard and get along with other people. For example, at the most recent karate tournament we went to, there was an issue, with the parents. Sparring isn't MMA fighting. Sparring is controlled, calculated moves. You aren't out to hurt others. You can't hit/kick certain areas. Again, it's all about control. You can not hit people in the face. It's one of the rules. So, when you have a parent yelling at his kid to hit the other kid in the face, there's a problem. When you, as a parent, want your kid to win at all costs, then the problem is actually you. Your child is out there representing a specific school, a team. Those people are no longer welcome at our school's tournament because that's not the kind of attitude that is tolerated at our school.
Being the best is stressed way too often in this society. By always trying to "be the best", you miss out on so many other things. There's a difference between being the best and trying your best. Husband and I stress this in our house. Did you try your best? Then that's what matters. When parents or coaches stress winning and being the best over hard work and putting in effort, a "me" mentality is created. It's important to teach children that hard work and perseverance are important to achieve success. In this house, we don't reward grades, goals, home runs, tournament trophies, etc. In this house, we reward effort and attitude.
A note to parents...remember, there is an "I" in team. It's in the "A" hole. Don't teach your kids to be a-holes.