Thursday 29 May 2014

Eleven O’clock News

I was wondering today what it is that a coach does. I’m talking about coaches of professional teams, not kid’s teams. I have been a coach on a kid’s team and really all I needed to know was just a little bit more than the kids did. When you are coaching kids, they need to learn techniques and skills which are relatively easy to teach. I say relatively, because unless the kid wants to learn, there is really nothing that you can do.

I was talking to a U-10 soccer coach once and he told me that at the beginning of every practice he would put a target on the wall and if anyone could hit the target from thirty feet he would give them a soccer pin. Throughout the season, he shortened the distance to 25, then 20 and finally 15 feet. By the end of the season he hadn’t given one pin away and about half way through the season the girls stopped even trying. The girls weren’t interested in practice; they just wanted to play games. They didn’t understand that you don’t learn anything during a game; it is the practices where you learn to play the game better.

I gave up coaching to others who had an interest in becoming better, the only interest I had was how I could get out of coaching. It wasn’t my best destiny.

It is someone’s best destiny however. They will have learned and progressed through the ranks over the years, just as the athletes do. Not all people can coach at a professional level, but the select few can, which brings me back to wondering what a coach does at the professional level.

The athletes have spent years learning the game they play and getting their body into as near perfect condition as a human can. They have spent most of their life, running, bouncing a ball, catching a ball, jumping, shooting, tackling, studying the game and living and breathing this game of theirs. There can’t be very much that they don’t know about the game they love. So, what does a coach do? I imagine he may have a few tricks up his sleeve, but unless he is some kind of idiot-savant, those tricks won’t be very much different than all of the other professional coach’s tricks.

I have never been on a team nor have I ever been very interested in watching team sports on television so I have to assume the coach brings some kind of Jedi mind tricks to teach the players. He must be able to somehow get the players to forget they are down fifty-three points and play like this game is the most important thing in the history of the world. The coach will have to make the players forget the fight they had with their wife this morning and that their baby was puking all night long. He has to convince the players that they must play their very best even though the owners are out to screw them when contract time comes around.

The coach must somehow convince the player that this game actually means something. Sometimes the coach convinces the athlete that he should take drugs that will enhance his performance and play down the fact that his testicles are shrinking at an alarming rate. I don’t really know what a good coach does, I guess. Maybe there are plays and techniques the player still doesn’t know, I doubt it, but maybe. Maybe it is just to be a whipping boy, someone to blame at the end of the season.

Maybe it is just sounding good on the eleven o’clock news.

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