The True Rules of Soccer (and Life)

Rule Number One.  Have Fun.

The First Grade Boys Soccer Team at my son’s elementary school outside of St. Louis, MO has equaled the 1972 Miami Dolphin’s NFL Record perfect 17-0 season.  Nice accomplishment for this group of ten of which my son is a member and his Dad is the coach.

I know these boys are only 6 and 7 years old.  And, believe me, I’m not the coach who dwells on the wins and losses of a first grade soccer team.  Cares.   Yes.  Obsesses.  No.  But, it really was a nice little season.  Here’s what is much nicer than reading the standings on the league website.  This group of little Landon Donovan’s really play together nicely while following my 6 “Golden Goal” Rules which they begin every practice and every game reciting out loud together in unison.

To repeat the first again… because along with Rule Number 6, it is the most important…and it rhymes.  Go ahead and say it out loud.  It has a nice “championship” ring to it.

Rule Number One:  Have Fun. (I, also, use this to get their attention.  Reminder:  They’re 6 and 7 year old boys.  Attention span is sometimes not their best quality.  Mine neither.)

Rule Number Two:  No Hands.  (The sport is soccer after all)

Rule Number Three:  Eye on the ball.  (Both literal and figurative teaching moment with this one)

Rule Number Four:  Follow your pass.  Follow your shot.  (Life Lesson…don’t ever give up)

Rule Number Five:  Open Space.  (Another Life Lesson…Give your co-worker, ahem, teammate some room to work while giving him an outlet for help if/when it’s needed.  This crew does not play “beehive” soccer where everyone runs to the ball.  Nope.  Positional play is enforced and they’re starting to get it.  Everyone has a job to do.  It’s a team sport.)

Rule Number Six:  Be Happy.  (This one is my favorite.  This is 1st grade soccer for goodness sakes.  Just a bunch of friends playing together, outside, in the fresh air, with their proud parents watching/rooting while snacks await on the sideline as the post-game reward.  If a kiddo can’t be happy in this atmosphere, then I’m doing something wrong.  That’s on me.)

Every Thursday evening to begin our weekly practice.  Every Saturday prior to the start of the game.  Same 6 Rules recited.  Over.  And Over.  And Over.  Repetition is imperative in coaching youth athletics, heck, in achieving any level of expertise at anything.  These kids not only can recite these 6 rules.  They follow these 6 rules in their play.  Perfect?  No.  Not even close.  Just like their coach.  We all have our moments.  But, the effort is always there.  The parental support is always there.  And, they always follow Rule Number One.  Have fun.  Like their statistical record, that’s perfect.  And, that allows me, with a smile that stretches from sideline to sideline, to check the box on …

Rule Number Six. “Be Happy.”   

Sincerely… A Happy Coach Jeff