The Sandlot

Sadly, field hockey season has ended. We finished 6-1-3. Not too bad for our first year! I really am so happy with how it went, overall. This felt like my first real team, and it was a big team – 23 girls – with a real mix of skill level. It was challenging in so many ways, but also way more fulfilling than my past coaching positions.

Here’s what I learned:

Coaching is way more fun – and almost seems easy – when you’re winning.

Our first loss doesn’t come until the end of the season, and it’s a loss in the worst kind of way. Not only do we lose by a lot – 5-0 – it’s also to a team we had beaten the first time around.

Yea. It’s awful. I actually want to cry when the game ends. Instead, I call Courtney to tell her how much coaching sucks when you lose. I truly feel like a loser. When I tell her we had way more corners and way more shots on goal, she assures me there was nothing else I could have done. Thank God. She knew I needed to hear that. To talk me off the ledge.

We exchange stories, which is really just a vent session, and I hang up the phone, feeling a little less terrible.

With a team of 23 girls (that’s a lot of girls) at very varying degrees of skill level, I really, really need a full-time assistant.

First, let me say that I have an awesome assistant, Coach Seymour. Unfortunately for me, she’s only part-time, because she has her own middle school team to coach. I only have her two days a week.

There are many reasons why an assistant is so important. With an assistant, I can split the team into two groups. This way, everyone is moving, everyone is playing more. Also, I can split them up by skill level, so I can teach basics to the newbies and more in-depth concepts to the veterans (I use that term very loosely). I can also have my assistant work with the goalie, because that’s a weak point of mine. I also don’t have to do every single drill to cage, because I don’t want my goalkeeper sitting around doing nothing. I can also split the team into offense and defense, so players can work on things that make sense for their position.

But the most important reason I need a full-time assistant, which I don’t realize until the very end, is simply, support. When I have Coach Seymour, she supports everything I do, everything I say. When she’s not there, I’m on my own. Me against the entire team, and sometimes it gets overwhelming.

I get so stressed out all the time. I want to rip my hair out. I feel crazy. Then, when I see Coach Seymour, and tell her about it, she always responds with a clear, level head, that I’m doing it right. Actually, she thinks I should be way harder on them.

Coach Seymour reminds me of how I was right out of college – taking no shit and no excuses. I have tried all season to find a happy medium, but have second guessed every decision that I’ve made.

Appreciate the good attitudes, and don’t focus on the bad ones.

It’s so easy to get flustered when players just don’t care, but most of them do. Really, they all do care, but there are moments. I take it so personally, and get so pissed off, when what I need to do, is look at all these other respectful and committed players who truly want to learn and understand the game, and be appreciative. I’m lucky that I have so many of these players, at every practice. I honestly do not have a single player on this team who is disrespectful. They might have disrespectful moments, but they’re not disrespectful girls.

Next year, next year, next year.

That’s what I have to keep telling myself. Next year will be different. Next year, they run more. Next year, I only allow players to be on the team who can fully commit. Next year, there’s no such thing as equal playing time. Playing time is earned through attendance, effort, and good attitude. Next year, practice is more important than games. Next year, I have a full-time assistant!

Individual improvements are nothing short of awesome.

So, so many moments. My favorites occur after a player does something awesome, and she stands up straight and looks at me – either like, ‘Did you just see that?’ or like, ‘Did I just do that?’ And it actually sends chills through me. It’s so exciting. 

The girls’ mental health is important above all else.

More than ever, this season has taught me that field hockey should not be a stress motivator, but a stress reliever. These girls have so much stress, and so much anxiety, and so many other things going on in their lives, and I find myself really trying to be present and in the moment when I look into their eyes, and ask if everything is OK. They seem programmed to say yes, everything is fine, and they really can handle a lot, but I’m trying to be more sensitive and understanding to everything outside of field hockey. It’s not easy, and it’s not what I’m used to, but when I think about the big picture, I would much rather these girls have a better and more realistic perspective on life, than get a field hockey scholarship to college (but that would be awesome, too).

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