As the 2008/2009 season approaches, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time thinking about how to approach the season for my U12 Girls team. We had almost all of our players return, so Tales From The Lunachick Fringe will continue, but now it’s time to get serious.

What I mean by that is last year we were a new team that was working hard to gel as a group while the girls got used to playing at the ‘next level’. I’ll admit we probably let them fool around at practice a bit too much early on since so many were unfamiliar with travel soccer. We went from a 3-11-4 team in the fall to a 11-8-0 team in the spring, moving from 13th place (2-6-2) to 3rd (6-2-0) in our regular season league – six of our losses came in tournaments. Yet the team never really ‘buckled down’ at practice. The commitment to improve never seemed to be at the forefront. In short – we have a good group of players with a lot of potential, but they haven’t quite realized it.

So the goal this year is to maintain a fun environment, while working harder as a team to keep improving. If we can motivate the girls to really work hard in practice and focus, the potential for improvement is huge. We still want to have fun – but also want them to reach their full potential.

Based on the experiences and feedback from a few other coaches, the first thing we’re going to try is a Player Contract. The idea is to drive home to the girls that playing at this level is a commitment and goofing off at practice only hurts the team and their teammates. It’s probably a bit harsh on the surface, but we’ll be handing it out during our team meeting. We’ll explain that for the team to improve we have to work hard at practice and focus. Hopefully by making the players sign it (along with their parents), it’ll drive it home. I’ve shown it to a few parents and they think it’s a great idea. We’ll see.

Have your kids had to sign player contracts before? Did it make them focus more or were they just a waste of paper? I’m curious to see how other teams and players have reacted to these. I’ll be sure to update you all as the season progresses!