Youth soccer coaches work hard to teach their kids the beautiful game and take pleasure in seeing them all improve and play better soccer. But even when you have a team with a solid core of performers, it can still be like herding cats trying to get them to play consistently as a ‘team’. So when it finally does happen, it’s an amazing feeling.

My U10’s played one of the best matches I’ve seen them play last night. In a rematch of last season’s tournament championship match-up, my U10’s decided to play as a team. I have a team that has a number of very talented players and I’m lucky to have them. But more often than not, they feel like when they’re on the field, they have to burn 2 or 3 players to get to the goal and shoot. I stress over and over how important passing is to maintaining possession and setting up scoring opportunities, but more often than not, much of our scoring relies on the footwork of a handful of our players. Not an ideal situation.

Tonight was different. Every single one of them played smart. They passed relentlessly, especially near the goal. Kids who normally would have tried a tough angle shot from the corner instead of a good cross, were crossing the ball like crazy. Our forwards were following shots in to the goal box and feeding each other over and over. Our defense was relentless in keeping their opponents near the touchline. It was a great thing to see as their coach.

I know a lot of people feel soccer coaches just care about winning, but this wasn’t about the final score. It was seeing our defense force the ball handlers over the touch line, seeing our forwards come to the ball at mid field and drive towards the goal, three wide in excellent spread out formation.

I wish I could say ‘well we just told them this and they responded’, but I can’t. I have no idea what possessed them tonight to play so unselfishly and as a TEAM. If I did I’d write a book! :) Every player on the team had multiple scoring chances. It was a pleasure to watch.

I’m not sure if any of you have encountered this, but with a team like this, you quickly learn you are more caretaker than anything else, directing them towards self improvement, teaching them core skills, and cheering them on. You’d like to think you’ve somehow done a bit of soccer coaching magic, but more often than not, you got lucky with your team assignments and got a great group of kids. When all the hard work, practice, and mantras of ‘pass when pressured, maintain possession, communicate’ and so on seem to suddenly sink in, it’s very rewarding.

I have no idea if they’ll continue playing like they did last night, but even if they don’t, they’ve set a new standard for themselves which we can continue to strive for. Now they know they can do what they’re supposed to do – ALL of them as a team. That was the key, everybody contributed last night.