How Coaching Soccer Applies to Work

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For those that know me, it has been well known that I despise soccer. I have never enjoyed watching it or playing it. When my son Evan first started playing sports, I told him he can only play soccer until he turns 7, and he promptly quit to concentrate on other sports. So, there was much amusement from my friends and family when I was asked to help coach my daughter’s 6-year old soccer team.  I explained that I don’t know soccer and I don’t like the sport, but my daughter Ella was so excited, so I said yes.
I have always believed that sports teach kids about life, such as playing as a team, being competitive, being a good sport, and trying your hardest.  With that, there are many learning experiences for me as well and how it parallels everyday work.

  1. Be Great No Matter the Task: There are many things we have to do at work that are not fun or enjoyable and may even make you miserable doing it.  However, there is no excuse for not doing the job to the best of your abilities every time out.  I have prepared, brought energy, and tried to learn so that I can teach the girls on the team about soccer and playing sports.  I want them to love playing sports and if I could contribute in some small way to that, then that would be very humbling.
  1. Find Fun in What You are Doing: Work is a place that you spend the majority of life, so make it fun in some way. Dale Carnegie said, “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”  I believe that everyone is a better employee and coworker when they are having fun.  This is true in soccer as well—I want the kids laughing and having fun as it impacts how they play and interact with others.
  1. Accountability: Everyone should have accountability for their actions no matter how old they are or what they are doing.  I benched my daughter for 5 minutes of practice once because she was not listening and was playing around when she was being taught a drill.  We explain consequences to the players and constantly reinforce it. Typically, we make the entire team run when just one person acts up. They are a team, so the consequences affect the entire team. For work, if you manage employees, then set expectations, constantly review them, and then praise employees when they do well and hold them accountable when they don’t.  Unfortunately, with 6-year old girls, some of the consequences, like running as a team, is more enjoyable than it is meant to be.
  1. Crying: I’m sure you’ve heard it at least once in your lifetime, that one saying: “There is no crying in baseball.” Well that same saying does not apply to soccer. I had to end one practice early because too many of the girls were crying. I huddled them up, gave them a pep talk. Then I let them know that we were all on the same team and were here to support each other. Work sometimes can be emotional, so be a great listener if someone is very upset. Be supportive, have empathy, and have the type of relationship with your employees where they feel comfortable talking to you.
  1. Bullies: Let’s face it. There are teams out there that are much more aggressive than others. In fact, we have played this one team for a few seasons now that has a very aggressive coach, and he transfers that aggression to his players, never playing a “clean” game. They try to run up the score. The parents constantly yell and stand right up on the field line, like a barrier that intimidates the other team’s players from kicking or going over to that side. Not to mention his players tend to grab, hold onto, and use their hands against the other team’s players consistently. We had to end the game early recently because one of their parents came on the field and accused us of retaliating and teaching our girls to throw elbows.  We taught our girls to protect themselves only if someone was holding or grabbing them, and that we would be there to protect them as well. So, how does this apply to work? Well, we have all dealt with bullies at work. First, never lose your cool, stand up to them professionally, and ensure that you protect your employees from taking the harassment. This creates an unhealthy work environment and removes any semblance for fun, which typically implies that the work will not be stellar.
  1. Be a Team: One of my favorite moments from my daughter’s soccer games was when all of the girls huddled up and laughed after the other team scored.  We had to break them up so we could continue playing, but it was so great to see that they were having fun, being supportive, and being good teammates even when things were not going so well. Bring this attitude to work every day. How can you be a good coworker? Be supportive, communicate clearly, give praise, discuss things that are not going well in a way that moves the company forward, and sometimes just get in a huddle and give a primal scream.

This has been a rewarding experience so far since I get to spend even more time with Ella and her friends. Try to bring a similar attitude to work every day. But I do have to admit…I still do not like soccer!!!

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