The soccer team of 7-year-olds that my husband and I coach had their third game of the season this morning. To be blunt, we got killed. That's the first time this season we've lost. First game we won 13-0, and the second was 7-4. It's easy to coach a team that is winning. They're happy kids, and that makes them play harder. When they're losing, their confidence drops and they don't try as hard as they could, and the score piles up against them. That's when, as a coach, you have your work cut out for you. You have to keep them motivated, and that is not easy with a bunch of deflated first-graders.
I've been coaching youth soccer teams for several years, and I played for about 10 years before that. My priorities for the young kids go in this order: Have fun, learn to play soccer, get exercise. Granted, winning is more fun than losing.
Today, one of our better players was crying when he walked away from the field. I tried to comfort him, to explain that he had a couple excellent shots that missed because of bad luck (one went off the pole). That this was our second game in four days, so they were tired. That our star player was coming off the flu. But in the end, the kid wasn't comforted. We were outplayed, and we both knew it.
I left the field feeling horrible for the kids, like I had let them down. My job is to make sure they have fun, and today, they didn't have fun.
I think, though, this loss could turn out to be a good thing. They know now that they can't waltz onto the field, give a half-hearted effort and expect to win. They were getting cocky, and this was a reality check. They'll come back next week and try harder. And so will I. And hopefully we can get our mojo back.