If you were to be forced to choose between soccer knowledge and an ability to inspire your players, which would you choose?
In a small town in Connecticut some boys enjoyed knocking the ball about. Most of us had decided to hang up our ice skates, baseball gloves and lacrosse sticks, as this one peculiar game of soccer seemed to capture our spirit in some sensational way. A few of us would tell our mothers that we were headed to Ted’s house and would secretly carpool into the inner city of Hartford to play with the Jamaican and Polish men. A gym happened to be open and we “knew a guy.” Sweat stained with a few bruises on our suburban teenage legs, we would return to our privileged haven in the hills. As the pre-season started we would be assigned a baseball coach to lead us on the soccer pitch. Jack Wilson knew little of the game and to be honest it did not matter. We learned the game from playing and what we needed more than anything else was some kind coach to be our advocate, to lead us, to model respect, and to open the locker room door to our eventual success.
Might we have been better with a tactical guru on the bench? Perhaps.
Might we have learned more about dedication, bonding and relentless competitive spirit? I doubt it.
You may have limited opportunities to be an advocate for a child, your child or your child within, so how many do you want to waste?
You see Coach Wilson was our advocate and to this day many whistles later I can still hear Jack’s cracking voice keeping us in line and beckoning me to put a few balls in the back of the net. “Baked Beane,” he would holler at me pointing to the opponent’s goal. He kept the game simple because he did not understand the game in any profound way. But he wove his lessons profound because he did understand what it meant to be our biggest fan.
If you love playing the game, continue playing. If you love unlocking potential in others then coach. And perhaps you are already the leader with profound soccer knowledge and a deep understanding of the artistry of inspiration. But if you are not, then follow Coach Wilson’s example and start with inspiration and fill in the rest.
That State Championship banner hanging high in the salty gym of Simsbury High honors one man who chose to be our advocate first.
In the end, I think you knew a lot more than most.