By Dan Woog
I have coached probably 1,000 different players since my first youth team in 1975. There were junior high squads, high school freshmen, junior varsity and, now, varsity teams. But I feel like I’ve worked with only a few. That's because the same boys show up again and again. Well, not the same ones -- but the same types.
(This is Part 2 of “The Archetypes.” Read, Part 1, “Loners, Little Guys, Mathematicians, etc.,” HERE.)
The Captain Who Really Isn’t. Every team has a captain-wannabe. This is the boy who always must say something after the captain finishes his speech; who asks the coach what we’re gonna work on today, and -- unless I restrain him -- would actually walk onto the field for the coin toss. The reason his teammates do not elect him captain is, of course, because he does all the things listed above.
The Musician. I have no idea why, but every team I’ve ever coached has had at least one excellent musician. Drummers, guitarists, piano players, cellists, clarinetists -- I’ve had them all. Sometimes The Musician is happy to perform at a team social event; sometimes he doesn’t want anyone to know he plays. I try to go to as many of The Musicians’ concerts as I can, regardless of style. It gives me more insight into how well they perform under pressure.
Mr. Clueless. When God passed out brains, one player on each team was apparently wandering around on another field. Every year there is one boy with so little common sense, I fear for his safety in the real world. He is stupendously unable to arrive on time, hand in the proper forms and/or money, follow simple directions, or at times breathe unaided. Once he is on the soccer field, however, he often plays magnificently. This causes coaches to 1) tear their hair out and then 2) put him on the field in a very important position. Mr. Clueless often comes from an entire family of Cluelesses. It’s a good bet that the reason he remains at the field long after dark is because his mother forgot he had practice -- or does not know he is on a soccer team. In the most extreme case, his mother cannot even remember that she has a son.
The Soccer Expert. This player knows more about soccer at every level -- club, high school, college, international, intergalactic -- than Stephen Hawking knows about the universe. “Did you see the Djerdjukolozovic-Brmdskji game on the Serbian sports channel?” he will burble. “What do you think North Dakota State-Minot’s chances are in the NAIA women’s tournament? Do you want to go with me on Saturday to see this awesome U-9 game?” Most of his teammates -- who themselves are quite soccer-savvy -- regard him with a mixture of awe and pity.
The Uniform Maven. A close cousin of The Soccer Expert, The Uniform Maven knows everything there is to know about jerseys, shorts, socks, shoes and balls. He is up on all the latest trends, both fashion (“Look at those stripes -- there’s five of them, not four, and check out the cool shade of black!”) and function (“See, the new inner soles have compressed nitrous oxide, and there’s a tiny layer of einsteinium that gives you more power.”) I could care less what my team looks like, but the players do, so I find The Uniform Maven invaluable whenever I have to order anything. And he gets off on helping me no end.
The Perfectionist. Some boys take the coach’s admonition “Do your best” to an unhealthy extreme. Nearly every year, I have one player who is never satisfied. We could win the most important championship, and he could score the only goal, but after the match he will focus on his one shot the keeper saved brilliantly. If we do not win, of course -- or if we do, but he plays poorly -- he transports himself beyond inconsolable, to another emotion so frightening words cannot describe it. Coaching The Perfectionist is very difficult, because by definition he lacks the most important quality any athlete needs: the ability to laugh at himself.
The Bad Boy. The Bad Boy can be bad for a number of reasons. He may test the coach’s limits, by going beyond them. He may be every teacher’s worst nightmare, spending more time out of class than in. He may be seeing three girls at once. He may be involved in drugs or alcohol. He may be doing all those things simultaneously. But for some reason, I seldom find The Bad Boy to be evil. Troubled, perhaps, and often caught up in a horrible home situation. A challenge, definitely. So -- though it tests my sometimes limited amount of patience -- I try not to let The Bad Boy make me mad. Instead, I do what I can to help. Sometimes I succeed. And when I do, I am strangely glad that I have this particular archetype on my team.
Read Part 1 of "Archetypes" HERE.
Excerpted from “We Kick Balls: True Stories From The Youth Soccer Wars.” By Dan Woog 198 pages, 2012. Paperback $12.95; Kindle $9.95; E-Book $9.99.)