As we all know, there are bad coaches out there who don’t have perspective or a long term view of a player’s development. They don’t get that at younger ages we should be primarily concerned with developing foot skills and giving kids the tools they need for more competitive soccer later. What some mistakenly take as some political statement about ‘everybody wins’ is really ‘everybody gets a chance to develop’. The irony in all this is the non competitive environment when kids are younger is mostly there to help them develop into much more competitive players later.
So it’s not a surprise when stories surface about ultra competitive coaches screaming at 5 year olds to ‘take one for the team’. But even then you can stumble across stuff that just makes you go ‘Wow!’. Let me introduce you to the coach of the ‘Green Death’, who has caused a huge uproar in a northeastern soccer league.
Here we have Michael Kinahan, the new coach of a group of U8 girls for Scituate Soccer Club in Massachusetts, introducing himself to his new parents. Now, this league seems to start at U8, so these parents are opening their email and excited that their daughter will soon play, and wondering what their new coach is like. Here is their introduction from their new coach, welcoming them to the ‘Green Death':
Congratulations on being selected for Team 7 (forest green shirts) of the Scituate Soccer Club! My name is Michael and I have been fortunate enough to be selected to coach what I know will be a wonderful group of young ladies. Chris Mac will also be coaching and I expect the ever popular Terry to return to the sidelines. Our first game will be Saturday April 4 at 10:00AM. There will be a half hour of skills followed by a 1 hour game, so total time will be 1.5 hours. All games will be played on the fields in the front of the High School. Each player will be required to wear shin guards and cleats are recommended but not required. A ball will be provided to each player at the first meeting, and each player should bring the ball to games and practices. There is no set practice time allotted for the U8 teams, but I will convene with the coaches to determine the best time and place. If there are cancellations due to rain, all notices will be posted via the Scituate Soccer Club website, no calls will be made (though I will try to send an email). Attached is the Schedule and Code of Conduct. After listening to the head of the referees drone on for about 30 minutes on the dangers of jewelry (time which I will never get back), no player will be allowed to play with pierced ears, hairclips, etc. We used to tape the earings, but that practice is no longer acceptable. Please let me know if your child has any health issues that I need to be aware of. My home phone is XXX XXX XXXX, my cell number is XXX XXX XXXX, and I check my email frequently. According to my wife, my emails get too wordy, so for those of you read too slowly, are easily offended, or are too busy, you can stop here. For the others……
OK, here’s the real deal: Team 7 will be called Green Death. We will only acknowledge “Team 7″ for scheduling and disciplinary purposes. Green Death has had a long and colorful history, and I fully expect every player and parent to be on board with the team. This is not a team, but a family (some say cult), that you belong to forever. We play fair at all times, but we play tough and physical soccer. We have some returning players who know the deal; for the others, I only expect 110% at every game and practice. We do not cater to superstars, but prefer the gritty determination of journeymen who bring their lunch pail to work every week, chase every ball and dig in corners like a Michael Vick pit bull. Unless there is an issue concerning the health of my players or inside info on the opposition, you probably don’t need to talk to me. Coach MacDonald has been designated “good guy” this year.
Some say soccer at this age is about fun and I completely agree. However, I believe winning is fun and losing is for losers. Ergo, we will strive for the “W” in each game. While we may not win every game (excuse me, I just got a little nauseated) I expect us to fight for every loose ball and play every shift as if it were the finals of the World Cup. While I spent a good Saturday morning listening to the legal liability BS, which included a 30 minute dissertation on how we need to baby the kids and especially the refs, I was disgusted. The kids will run, they will fall, get bumps, bruises and even bleed a little. Big deal, it’s good for them (but I do hope the other team is the one bleeding). If the refs can’t handle a little criticism, then they should turn in their whistle. The sooner they figure out how to make a decision and live with the consequences the better. My heckling of the refs is actually helping them develop as people. The political correctness police are not welcome on my sidelines. America’s youth is becoming fat, lazy and non-competitive because competition is viewed as “bad”. I argue that competition is good and is important to the evolution of our species and our survival in what has become an increasingly competitive global economy and dangerous world. Second place trophies are nothing to be proud of as they serve only as a reminder that you missed your goal; their only useful purpose is as an inspiration to do that next set of reps. Do you go to a job interview and not care about winning? Don’t animals eat what they kill (and yes, someone actually kills the meat we eat too – it isn’t grown in plastic wrap)? And speaking of meat, I expect that the ladies be put on a diet of fish, undercooked red meat and lots of veggies. No junk food. Protein shakes are encouraged, and while blood doping and HGH use is frowned upon, there is no testing policy. And at the risk of stating the obvious, blue slushies are for winners.
These are my views and not necessarily the views of the league (but they should be). I recognize that my school of thought may be an ideological shift from conventional norms. But it is imperative that we all fight the good fight, get involved now and resist the urge to become sweat-xedo-wearing yuppies who sit on the sidelines in their LL Bean chairs sipping mocha-latte-half-caf-chinos while discussing reality TV and home decorating with other feeble-minded folks. I want to hear cheering, I want to hear encouragement, I want to get the team pumped up at each and every game and know they are playing for something.
Lastly, we are all cognizant of the soft bigotry that expects women and especially little girls, to be dainty and submissive; I wholeheartedly reject such drivel. My overarching goal is develop ladies who are confident and fearless, who will stand up for their beliefs and challenge the status quo. Girls who will kick ass and take names on the field, off the field and throughout their lives. I want these girls to be winners in the game of life. Who’s with me?
Go Green Death!
Needless to say the parents freaked out, and the league has relieved this coach of his duties (or he resigned – I’ve seen both reported). The coach insists this was all tongue in cheek, but like Dr Webb, who feels Soccer Is Ruining America, this guy isn’t very good at it. And lest you think ‘Yeah this guy was just trying to be funny’, well, no. He was serious. This story quickly got regional media attention, both in the Boston Herald, and local TV stations. The local FOX station did a five minute segment on this, and in talking with league officials, this coach was so hard on the refs in a previous year, one of them quit. You can watch that segment here:
The Boston Herald article includes some additional info from the coach, and a league board member:
Kinahan told the Herald last night his letter was a mix of “suburban satire” and a challenge to compete.
“I stand by my comments. This isn’t two hours of free babysitting,” Kinahan said.
Scituate Youth Soccer board member Chris Park said the preseason letter may have been “tounge-in-cheek,” but saying he was going to challenge referees – some 12 years old – was inappropriate.
“It’s not a joke,” said Park. “He chewed out a 12-year-old so bad last year she said she won’t referee anymore.”
So tongue in cheek or not (and clearly from his reaction it wasn’t), this coach was known for problems in the past, which he even alluded to in his email. Glad to see one more coach with zero perspective will be on the parent sideline, though I’m sure he’ll go to some other club and try to coach there. What I’m curious about, though, is if a coach chewed out a referee so bad that they quit, why was he still coaching? This is such a problem in youth soccer – problem coaches that most people know about continue to coach because the leagues don’t want to take action. They hope they can ‘contain’ the problem, until it blows up in their face. I’ve seen this firsthand.
What do you all think? Have any similar horror stories to tell? The funny thing is, some of what this guy says is true, though how he says it is borderline psychotic. There’s no reason to coddle kids and make it out like soccer isn’t a contact sport as the players get older. But these are six and seven year old girls, with ribbons in their hair wanting to learn how to play, not eat red meat. There absolutely are issues with how referees sometimes officiate girls differently than boys, where parents are led to believe by some leagues that all competition is bad, that we should coddle kids until they’re in HS. But this clearly is not the way to accomplish any of that. You build a team and you develop your players the best you can. You start out introducing them to the basic skills and making sure they have lots of fun. Over time you slowly clue them (and their parents) into the fact that if they pursue competitive soccer, it gets rougher, requires more commitment, and winning starts to matter more. But it still is fun. You try to gradually (I’m talking years here, not at U8), expose them to the faster more physical style of play they’ll encounter. But dropping the bomb on a bunch of parents of six and seven year old girls, what was he thinking? Clearly he wasn’t.
UPDATE: Via (@ToddSullivan) here is the coach’s resignation letter (Not Really Safe For Work) to his team where he insists this was all in good fun and he was just being funny. Long time readers know I’ve written about the fight to remove competition from youth soccer and how we need to strike the right balance since kids need to learn how to compete and deal with pressure as they get older. Some of the points he makes aren’t far from what many have thought, myself included at older age levels, but how can he have expected a bunch of new soccer parents to take this well? The original email aside, clearly there were issues with this coach. Coaches who berate teenagers trying to learn how to referee have no place on the sidelines, regardless of their humor. Safety measures are put in place for a reason – youth soccer is a contact sport and I’ve seen earrings, taped over, that get jabbed into the side of the head from contact and bleed profusely. I’ve seen kids who aren’t very aggressive at age 6 or 7 stick with soccer and become stars, but all too often they quit because they get sidelined by coaches who just want to win, not develop players.
Do I agree with some sentiments behind his letter? Sure. Hard work, determination, and being pumped up to play are great. I’ve told my U12s to stop eating McDonalds so much, especially right before practices. Building a tight knit team can be a wonderful thing. But sarcasm or not, there were enough sentiments between the lines of that letter, humorous or not, that would set off alarm bells for any decent DOC. I’ve seen plenty of instances where the PC police ruin things for us and our kids over something silly. In this case? I think this soccer league did themselves a favor.
And honestly? Regardless of what this coach really thinks, he acted with blatant disregard to his players, their parents, and how they would react to this. He attracted national media attention to a group of 6 and 7 year old girls who just want to play soccer and whose parents suddenly had to struggle with what to do, threaten to pull their kids, debate sticking it out, etc. The kids just want to play and this coach, either trying to make a joke (and failing), or trying to make some political statement, did so at the expense of a group of girls who just want to play soccer. For that reason alone, he shouldn’t be coaching, regardless of his views or badly written humor.
UPDATE #2: A number of parents have spoken out in support of Coach Kinahan over at Wicked Local. H/T to Your Kid’s Not Going Pro who had his own satorical take on the Green Death and the reaction of past parents.