As a coach I had tremendous success. There were times that it was because I had very good players. In our neighbourhood back home the kids born in 76 and 77 included a flood of terrific athletes. I coached one or the other group for a number of years and we won a lot. A lot. But they won a lot when I wasn’t the coach too. Of the eight clubs that played together of these groups of kids they won six city championships in soccer. Five of those six clubs doubled by winning the league as well. The two that did not win the playoffs were also regular season champions and each lost their championship game in a shootout.
So yeah, they were good. And they had different coaches so I mostly stayed out of the way. I pushed and prodded and worked them and made sure they played as a team and that everyone had fun and they would not have won with a bad coach but I’m not fooling myself. Good players make the job of a coach easier.
I loved those Sudbury teams that won over and over again but there were two teams that were my favourites when it came to the soccer clubs. One team I really gloried in was a team I coached in Toronto, a bunch of neighbourhood kids in the neighbourhood league who started slowly and then came together over the season. A couple of very good players, some solid ones, some humps. Got them working hard and together and having fun. There were always girls on these teams and I was a master at putting them into positions to succeed and getting them to become major parts of the team’s success.
On this team I had a couple of tall blonde twins who were more interested in socializing than playing. Stereotypical princesses really, they were fourteen, all ponytails and makeup and trendy clothes. Pretty well useless on the field at the beginning of the year. I helped to change that.
Man, I love winning.
I had a lot of success as a soccer coach, seven teams and five of those won either a playoff championship or a league championship or both and the sixth, another of my favourites, fell just short in the championship series (best of three) in the toughest most competitive league I ever coached in.
Only one mediocre team in the bunch.
As a hockey coach I was pretty successful as well. Ten clubs. Six of them won something and were quality squads, a seventh was also quite good. My favourite of the lot were The Missiles, the little squad that could and did.Of the remaining three clubs, two were okay and one was awful. The awful team was the only one I have ever had as a coach. We had been quality the year before and we had lost a handful of guys, guys who weren’t sexy but, well, you know, got things moving in the right direction when they were on the ice. Sound familiar? ;)
Still, we thought, even thought the quality was less, that we would be ok.
We were close but no cigar our first couple of games. A failure to finish our chances, a mistake or two that ended up in our net, a soft goal (sound familiar). A penalty at a bad time, a bad change, a missed assignment.
And after each game we bemoaned our bad luck.
And then a couple of games with bad luck became a half dozen. A couple of guys who had been terrific the year before were off. The replacements for the departures weren’t getting the job done. The goaltending was average.
And after each game we wondered what went wrong.
And after about a dozen games it became clear. We were a bad team. We weren’t getting much puck luck but mostly that was because we weren’t making anything happen. Our errors were glaring.
We had no margin for error. The other teams began to beat on us.
And from there the season went south. The replacements’ collective confidence was shaken but then again so were the holdovers. For that matter so was the coach’s.
We began to spiral and what had been close losses morphed into losses by three or four. Games where we had hung in with superior teams became one sided blowouts. Guys who had scored twenty five goals the year before in a forty four game schedule were hard pressed to hit double digits.
We were shattered.
As a coach it was my one bad experience out of nearly twenty seasons coaching. It was awful and when it ended we breathed a sigh of relief because if you are a bad team once the death spiral begins there’s no breaking out of it. Bag skates, enthusiastic speeches, yelling, pleading, threatening, cheering like a madman.