Ask any coach why he does this, and you’ll get similar answers: the opportunity to pass along skills, tactics, passion and a love for the beautiful game. The chance to help develop hearts, minds and characters of young players, at a crucial time in their lives. The joy of being outdoors, day after day, on fantastic New England fall afternoons.
(We don’t do it for the pay. But that’s a story for another day.)
I can’t speak for all coaches, but I think many agree that that’s one other reason we love what we do: other coaches.
My 15 colleagues in the FCIAC are some of the best people I know in the soccer world. We compete fiercely during the regular season. We do everything we can to get any possible edge, to find that one goal that can make the difference in an 80-minute match, or -- who knows? -- an entire season.
But we also share deep respect for each other. We understand what everyone else is going through. We greet each other before games, share stories, ask about players on the other team we know and admire.
When the league tournament comes around -- an intense, 8-team affair that culminates in a championship match with up to 3,000 fans -- we are both competitors and fans. I’ve been on the receiving end of heartfelt email congratulations from my fellow coaches, and I’ve sent them. We’re especially happy when a coach who has not won a league championship in a while -- or ever -- tastes the joy of success. We sure wish it was us, but it can’t always be. So we support our colleagues, as strongly we can.
When we get together to choose our All-FCIAC team, we listen to each other. We respect what everyone says, because -- as someone always reminds us -- this is all about our players.
We laugh a lot too. We kid each other about our personality quirks, our sideline comments, the weird bounces and referee calls and god-knows-what-else that make soccer such a wonderful, wacky game. We’re all in it together.
When the state tournament starts, we wish each other luck. Because nearly all the FCIAC schools are “LL,” odds are good that at some point we knock each other out. We commiserate about the draw. If we get knocked out, we give a scouting report to the coach who faces that team next.
We’ve supported each other’s fundraisers. We’ve been there for each other in tough personal times. We’ve become friends, as well as colleagues.
Over the years, I’ve gotten to know plenty of non-league coaches too. I’m proud to call Mark Landers, Steve Waters and Rob Jachym friends. As a CSCA board member I’ve gotten to know and admire a host of coaches from schools large and small, all over Connecticut. They too have broadened my horizons, and enriched my life.
We tell our players that we need everyone in soccer. Without opponents and referees, we could not have a game.
Let’s add coaches into that mix. Thanks to everyone, for all you do for all of us.