My friend lost a player to childhood cancer this week.
Just hearing the news alone sent shivers down my spine and forced me to take a critical look at the work I have done so far as a youth coach. Ever since I started coaching as a schoolboy, I have always been aware that I have a unique opportunity to make positive impacts on the youngsters I work with. There are not many roles where you can directly make and see the differences you make, and especially on young children through your dedication, your passion, your love for them and for their developments, We often get judged on how successful of a coach we are through our players' technical success, but how many times do we take a step back and appreciate the fact that our players are not just better footballers but also better people simply because we have their best interests in mind?
My personal mission, all along, has been "making a difference in children's lives through soccer". This isn't some blanket statement to make my CV look good. This is what I truly believe in and live for. The nature of my education forces me to move around every nine months or so, therefore I only spend a limited period of time working with certain groups of players. I try to make the most of this time knowing that neither my players nor I will be around forever, and that I will do everything to make as much of a difference as I can so that when I no longer have the same group of kids, I can look back and proudly say "I did something worthwhile".
Barely anyone, if there is even any, is involved in youth sports and coaching to make money. We're in this to help our players be the best they can be, on and off the pitch. Every time a kid comes up to give me a hug or a high five, that's all I can ask in return for the hours I've put into the job. When you spend six months coaching a few kids, see them again a year and a half later and their faces brighten up seeing you and they enjoy spending time with and being around you, you know you are doing something right. This is the real reward of the job that no money, league titles and personal accolades can trump.
When we're no longer there, our players move on, or God forbids, when tragedies strike, we want to be able to say that there are children who have become better people because we as coaches believed in them, believed in their ability and wanted nothing but the best for all of them.
So please, go out and make a difference while you have the chance to.
About the Author
Bao "Terry" Cao is currently a coach at Manchester United Foundation and the FA Development Centre for girls. Terry is licensed by both the FA and USSF. He shares his personal experience of being involved in youth soccer as both a coach and an outside viewer.