What I learned being a volunteer sports coach in NJ
I still find it hard to believe that I signed up to coach for my kid's soccer program. From when it started to when it ended, I had no idea what to expect from it.
Now that the program has officially concluded for the 2023 season, I have mixed feelings about it. But whether or not I would ever do this again is another question altogether.
I will say this. The past few months have been quite a journey filled with ups and downs. I know that sounds like a generic thing to say, but it's true.
My wife and I took this journey together. Not only have neither of us ever coached sports before, but we didn't know the ins and outs of the very sport we were coaching.
Why did I do it?
My son plays soccer every fall. Ever since 2021, he's been out on that field every weekend from September through early November.
Normally, we would drive him to practices during the week and attend his games on the weekend. But this year, the organization had a big shortage of volunteers and was willing to take anyone, even with no experience, to be a head coach.
This was for the 2nd and 3rd grade teams, so it wasn't too intense. Still, it wouldn't be fair to the kids to see the games not happen due to a lack of volunteers.
So my wife and I took the dive and signed up to be head coaches, despite not knowing anything about coaching soccer. But thanks to us, the league was able to have four teams, just enough for the program to take place.
What I liked about it
With the good, there's always the bad. So we'll start off with what I liked about being a head coach to a bunch of 2nd and 3rd graders.
For one, I was amazed at how much some of the kids knew the game and wanted to play. In fact, they taught my wife and me quite a bit about the sport.
Toward the end of the season, their teamwork really shined through. They played so well together and were able to execute beautifully on the field.
And they did it mostly in the rain since almost every game saw raw, wet weather. Despite that, they played their hearts out, got better, and ended the season right in the middle with an equal number of wins and losses.
What I didn't like about it?
It was very overwhelming at first. Because there were so few teams, each team had way too many kids.
That made it very challenging when the kids who didn't want to play were present. But thanks to the rainy weekends, around half the players never showed up, leaving just those who were truly dedicated.
But even then, it was still a bunch of 2nd and 3rd graders, and there were moments where they felt they could run the show. And being we were learning on the fly, it made it immensely challenging to control them at times.
But the part I liked the least was the drama from not the parents, but from some of the other coaches. Let's just say one of them got into my face in a very unprofessional manner, in front of other parents and kids, over something he didn't like about our team.
Would I ever do it again?
Quite personally? I probably wouldn't do it again. At least, not with soccer.
If I ever did lead anything, it would have to be something I'm comfortable with. But being they were in desperate need of volunteers, we didn't want to see the program not happen as a result of not enough people available to make it happen.
And without getting into too many details, some of these people involved with the program need to back off from the drama. Surprisingly, the parents of the players weren't an issue (except for one parent who thought he could coach the volunteer referee).
Maybe the drama with the organization is just part of a volunteer gig in sports. Like I said, I've never done it before and for all I know, it's all perfectly normal.
My advice to those who are considering volunteering
I would say go for it. There's definitely more reward to it at the end of the day to outweigh the bad.
And, it was important that the games still happened for the kids. These sports activities don't happen without volunteers, which is important to keep in mind.
We also had a lot of support from the other parents, and I'm proud that I stuck it through for the kids. It took up a lot of our time, but it was worth the experience.
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The above post reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 Sunday morning host Mike Brant. Any opinions expressed are his own.