A Time to Say “Thank You!”
By Tim Bradbury, Director of Coaching, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
Perhaps it is because I really love the idea of Christmas and the holiday season in the old-fashioned sense that we all get to breathe for a second and spend time with family and loved ones. Or perhaps it is just the idea of giving and saying, “Thank you!” that I like the most. Whatever the reason, with a few tweaks, this is the message this December 2023.
I would like to say an enormous “Thank you!” to the thousands of coaches who have taken the time to take their grassroots license courses. Since we introduced the idea that every child playing travel-aged soccer deserves a minimally licensed coach, we have had more than 6,000 coaches participate in a wide variety of course experiences. The obvious outcome of which is that tens of thousands of players will be placed in better soccer environments in 2024.
I would also like to thank all the educators who have helped support the program and spent endless hours teaching these courses. A great commitment from a great team. None of this would have been possible without the support of all the staff that work in the ENNYSA office who over the last 3-4 years have dealt with thousands of calls and e-mails regarding the grassroots mandate program.
As a part of the grassroots course experience, coaches learn about the six tasks of a coach. The idea of two of those tasks “leading the player” and “leading the team,” perhaps with a third managing the performance environment, is I hope illustrated by all that follows.
I take great care and pride in the efforts I make to lead players and teams in a holistic way. I’m completely aware that although many of them may not become great players who play professionally or at college, they all may become great people who play for life, coach one day, and become active responsible adults. I spend time learning about my players’ lives outside of the game, how they are doing at school, and how family life is going and attempt to display a genuine interest in their likes and dislikes.
As I coach a good number of teenage players, I frequently talk to them about how they are helping their families and what they do to actually support moms, dads, brothers, and sisters. Are they a positive member of the family community or are they purely wrapped up in their own wants? The conversation starts with how they perform and act at practice. The challenge I present to all the players I coach is:
“Can you be the player who most impacts practice and ensures that the learning environment is ideal for all? Can you be the first one in ?, Can you be the most coachable player in the group? Can you be the one who most helps with equipment ?, Can you be the player who notices a teammate is down and gives them a word of inspiration or comfort ?”
I work hard to make them aware that the mission above should be their number one priority and that if I can get all 18 to place it as their core mission, we will soon have a team that makes remarkable progress.
Another of the core values that I work on with players is respect. The team dynamic is that we respect each other, we respect the refs, we respect the parents and all the work they do so players get to train and play. Part of this culture that deals with respect is saying “Thank you!” I encourage them to thank each other at the end of each game and practice, thank the refs at the end of each game and, of course, thank their parents at the end of the drive home. I ask them all to try and display their thanks by helping at home by doing something around the house that helps the family.
It seems appropriate at this time of year to once again encourage a few thank-you notes (Jimmy Fallon-like). So not just because it’s Christmas but more because it’s just the right thing to do I encourage all
“Players to thank your parents for the endless hours spent driving you to practice and games while remembering not to shout orders to you as you play.”
“Parents to thank coaches for their efforts in developing your child even though they didn’t win as many games as you thought they should have and have yet to recognize your child is the next Messi.”
“Coaches to thank club officials and administrators for all their efforts even if the biggest space you got to train in was only suitable for 3v3 and you got the 9:00-10:30 pm slot on a Friday.”
“Coaches to thank referees for the courage they show in turning up game after game knowing they will be subjected to endless ridiculous comments shouted at the top of their voices from an adult who obviously never kicked a ball.”
“Coaches to thank the refs who forget to give you and the players the 5-minute speech on when and where substitutes may enter the game like they are sharing some news on a discovery in creating energy.”
“Coaches to tournament organizers who remember that we live in the Northeast United States and that winter along with frigid temperatures arrives at about the same time every year. They also should be thanked for remembering how it feels to play outside when the real feel is so harsh you lose the feeling in your toes after five minutes.”
And lastly but most importantly:
“Players to parents who spend the car ride home listening to loud holiday music and in so doing forget to share the latest post mortem on your performance in the game.”
Best wishes to one and all,