Last season, when I was getting my soccer bag ready for the first day of practice, I tried to think of everything I might possibly need. Besides the balls and cones I was given, I also packed any extra pairs of shin guards I had and an air pump. I even bought a whistle. I added my first aid kit from my car, because kids are clumsy. I was coaching girls, so I also added lots of extra hair ties and pre-wrap (even though most are too young to even care if their hair is up or down when they play… I have no idea how anyone does anything with their hair down).
This year, I’m doing the same thing. Equipment is all laid out. But since I’m coaching boys (15 of them, all aged roughly 10-12 years old) instead of girls this year, I’m not going to pack the hair ties.
I’m going to be honest – I’m really worried about coaching boys this time.
I wasn’t too concerned at first, in fact I was even excited to be a positive female role model! I was excited that the boys play with more players on the field, so the game might be more similar to what I’m used to. I was excited about returning to the soccer pitch, in general, in whatever capacity.
But then, people got in the way of my excitement:
- My mother made the comment, “at that age, some of them might have a crush on you.”
- Playing trivia with a few guys I just met, they made comments like “The girl got one right!” or, “You like sports? Girls never like sports. Why do you like sports?”
- “You don’t think the dads will think that’s weird?”
- “Huh, well I hope you can handle it all by yourself!”
I know these boys I’m coaching are going to make their own comments. I know they aren’t old enough to understand what they’re saying. Hell, even when I coached girls they made comments that were painful, but for different reasons. Many of them wouldn’t do proper push-ups, because “girls are weaker than boys”. Which, I struggle with that even though biologically it might be true – but at their age, it’s not true at all. At 10-12 years old, girls have started hitting the growth spurts that boys won’t see for another 3-4 years. Even if the boys were/are stronger/faster/taller – you’re going to just give up!? You aren’t even going to try, because there’s an implied limit on what you think you can do? It just hurts. Unfortunately I didn’t see this video until after the season ended.
Practices start next week. Just like at the start of anything new, I have to figure out who I’m going to be. The tough coach? The fun one? Soft-spoken or whistle-blowing? But because I’m female, coaching a bunch of boys, there’s an added layer of issues I have to think about. What do I do if they don’t listen? How will I prove myself to them, that I know this game inside and out?
So I’m packing a bunch of internal things in the coaching bag this year instead of hair ties. Confidence, a louder voice, and the knowledge that I’ll have better form and distance than these punks. They’ll challenge me to prove myself every week and I will meet their challenges, because I can.
I always love a good challenge.