One of my favorite things to do over the past 15 years has been coaching soccer. Thanks to my daughters, I’ve had the opportunity to coach. My passion for the sport has grown and I’ve been motivated to learn more about the beautiful game. Being a coach also gives me some justification for watching Arsenal and Sporting Kansas City matches in order to develop my knowledge of the game. Or so I tell myself.
One of my first memories of soccer consists of being in a field in Kansas, where we not only dodged our teammates in scrimmages and drills, but also had to dodge cow patties. I played soccer off and on growing up, was a referee for youth games, and helped run some clinics with my dad and younger brother.
I started coaching youth soccer when I was still a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Our oldest daughter wanted to play, and they needed coaches, so I volunteered. She and our middle daughter both played soccer through their middle school years. After that, they focused on music and marching band. Our youngest daughter kept at it and truly loves the sport. I coached her at the youth level from U8 to U12, and enjoyed that a lot. Going into her 8th grade year, her last year of middle school, they needed a coach and I took the job. After she moved on to high school, I kept coaching the middle school team because of how much I loved working with the young athletes and being around the sport as a coach.
I’m very proud of the program I’ve helped build at the middle school. We compete against much larger schools, and for years the girls didn’t expect to do well against them. However, each of the past 2 seasons, we were undefeated in our league games. The girls now expect to compete with the teams from these schools, and it’s been rewarding to see them grow in skill and confidence. They play with so much heart and determination; it makes me proud to be their coach.
Just this month, I was named the high school girls soccer coach, which means I will once again coach my daughter, in her senior season with the team (I was granted permission by her, thankfully). We have some goals as a team related to different competitions that we’re in, but as a coach I also focus on doing what I can to encourage them to become better athletes and better people (as the Positive Coaching Alliance puts it, see here).
It is easy to make time for coaching soccer, because I love it. I do less (sometimes no) writing during soccer season, but that is an easy trade-off for me. My philosophical interests related to character and its relevance for different realms of human life cross over with my role as a soccer coach. Being a coach enables me to test out some of my views on character development and sport in the real world, and it gives me food for thought as I reflect on these issues. I’ve written papers on sports and neo-Aristotelian moral development, sport and humility, and I recently published a paper on sport as a means for cultivating the theologhttp://www.positivecoach.org/ical virtues of faith, hope, and love. I also hope to write a more popular-level book on sport and moral development in the near future.
I’m looking forward to many more years of coaching soccer, and hopefully a few more trophies along the way. But most of all, I value and look forward to the relationships I am able to have with these young athletes, encouraging them to see themselves as athletes, to value excellence, and to have some fun along the way.