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Deflections: What’s important anyhow?

The guy took me to task. His dander was up as he took umbrage with some of my remarks. It’s not like I’d insulted him or anything. In fact, I’d never met him before the discussion that evening. Just goes to show you how emotional everyone gets when discussing nearly anything to do with development. If only we’d get as riled about the school system. . . or taxes. . . or bad driver. . . even the weather.

An association’s house league teams were having a poor year at the novice (age seven to eight) level. Poor is relative, I suppose. Poor in wins? Poor in goals for? Poor in parental issues?

The teams had been placed at levels (called A, B, C, with A being the strongest) according to a formula used by its governing body, a formula that didn’t take anything into account other than some obscure expected bell curve of skill. It always caused problems. For this association’s novice teams whose kids were mostly coming straight from the Initiation Program, it was a disastrous year. One team was 0-17. Another had only scored six goals so far in 20 games. The majority of the others were at the bottom of the standings by a wide margin.

Full disclosure: Kids under about age 10 need to practice more than play. Besides, stats and standings cause a host of problems we, and they, could do without.

So the focus of my talk to the association’s novice team coaches was how to try to draw more and different skills from the kids in practice despite the awful results. You can’t control where your teams get placed nor the results, I told them. But you can certainly look at improving practices so as to direct energies where they belong, to development rather than scores.

That’s when the guy’s hand shot up. “I’m just happy my kid is playing,” he said. “I just want him out there doing what he can. After all, it’s only house league.”

Only house league? My politically correct response wasn’t what I wanted to say. Don’t all kids deserve the best coaching, the best practices, the best instruction, the best development we can find? Does it matter whether the kids are playing house league or AAA? Does it matter, too, that the coach is inexperienced? Should coaches be seeking assistance, guidance, mentoring in order to deliver such programming?

I suspect that message got overshadowed by my using the teams’ horrendous stats as the evening’s starting point. Bad mistake. Impact vs. Intent.

What’s important is not the result. I’m glad the fellow’s son is playing. But I wonder: is he being the best coach he can be?


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