Jessica Lane, Rush Soccer Coach
Can you share a bit about your work with children?
My work with children has shifted over the years and every phase has been an amazing journey. Currently, I coach youth athletes, which is a special job. On the field, the entire world simply melts away and all of my thoughts, focus, energy, and attention is in the present moment. Nothing else enters my mind except my players in front of me at that moment. I imagine, It is a similar feeling to the players and I am glad to be on this journey with them.
How does creativity and play factor into your coaching?
Creativity and play are enormous factors and present in every part of coaching at every age. I am constantly keeping my mind open to any idea of ways to connect with the players, to make things fun for them and exciting! I am always working hard to weave in what we need to teach them, with playful and creative ways to bring the skills to life. As a coach, you can do a drill 10 times and have it work beautifully: the kids have fun and they learn exactly what you hoped they would. Then one day, you can do that same drill and BOOM: it's a total flop. This is where the creativity definitely comes into play as you quickly shift to a completely different game/drill in an attempt to ensure all players have enjoyment in their training and they learn what they need to learn that day. A coach is only limited by their own creativity! There is something special that happens during training that only happens when the coach is completely engaged and in tune with their team and how everyone is feeling that day.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with others on how to incorporate more play into their teachings/curriculum?
We are coaching the player in a sport, yes, but it’s incredibly important to never forget the player’s perspective and that we are here for them as an individual. I remind them to never forget what it feels like to try something new and be silly in the process. I make the field the most fun place to be, while taking the opportunities to help all players develop life skills, build their character, resiliency, teamwork, kindness, empathy, respect. I could just say etcetera, but coaching really is an opportunity to help children cope with all the things that might be thrown at them throughout their lifetime.
I'd like to share a brilliant phrase among several coaches: Soccer is simply the vehicle. As long as the players come back to the field season after season, every player will develop the skills they need. There is only one way to guarantee a player doesn’t get better - if they quit. Hold onto this and keep the game (or lesson) fun and motivational. Before you administer consequences to children of any age, first ask clarifying questions and make sure there is nothing else going on. They might have had a rough day at school or a rough week at home and you may be there most stable, comfortable role model. But in the end, soccer is the world’s sport, it unites countries, families, communities and changes lives. I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to be part of that positive change.
Pat is the executive director and co-founder of Let's Play America and play advocate for both children and adults.