More than ever, coaches should take care of themselves and be good neighbors to those around them

How is the coronavirus impacting youth soccer? Like many states, the FYSA, Florida Youth Soccer Association, has canceled all events until April 16, when it will review this fluent situation. Yes, that tournament you were traveling to will no longer operate. And yes, your league may be suspended for a time. These are minor inconveniences in the grand scheme, just a moment in time.

There will be unforeseen consequences when this event is over. This pandemic will have a significant effect on our economy, the small businesses in your community, and, most importantly, it will impact lives. I have already learned of small soccer clubs that may not survive. There are costs involved in running a club, expenses that are covered by club dues, sponsors, and fundraising events.

Remember that those local sponsors may be experiencing some hardships at this time as well. The local restaurant, the local pub, the grocery store around the corner, everyone is going to be impacted. Remember them as we go through this together.

Let’s not forget about the people who work for your club -- especially your coach. Contact that individual who coaches your child. Many youth coaches depend on the club for their livelihood. Some youth coaches indeed make a decent living coaching teams, working camps, and teaching private lessons. What happens, in a situation like this pandemic, when there is no team to coach and no camp to work? The coach doesn’t get paid. The coach may struggle to make their rent payment or buy groceries.

Financial strain could also be a concern with your DOC, director of coaching, as well. Many of these positions do not include health benefits, and coaches purchase high deductible plans, which mean costly out of pocket visits. Meaning, they don’t go to the doctor unless it is an emergency.

Take a moment to check in on your youth coach. If they have a full-time job and soccer is a hobby for them, they may likely be weathering this event without a problem. However, if coaching is their livelihood, it would be a humanistic gesture to check on them and make sure they can weather this crisis.

For those of you who coach, make sure you are staying connected to your team and your colleagues. If you are in a comfortable place, financially, send a message to your team. Let them know you are thinking of them and remind them that this life event will pass, and you will be with them on the fields again soon. Once you know that your friends and loved ones are taken care of, then it is time to think about yourself!

When is the last time you paused, took a breath, and thought about yourself? If you are finding yourself with a little free time during this global event, take time to self-reflect. Reflect on your current relationships, is there someone you should spend a bit more time with now that it may be available?

Take an assessment of your health? Have you neglected your diet or your own fitness regime because coaching consumes all of your time? Have you taken the time to read a book that had nothing to do with the sport you coach? You now have up to a month with some free time.

Maybe, as you self-reflect, there is an area of the game that you want to improve on. If you are a member of the United Soccer Coaches organization, you can take some of their online diplomas and gain some professional development. When you get back to work, you can show your DOC and your parents what you have been doing to better yourself. There are many courses available online, some have a small fee, but many are free if you are a member or offer a membership discount.

The most important thing to remember is to take care of yourself. Use your leadership to model good practices and keep a level head. While the virus may not be an immediate threat to you or the young people you coach, there can be a severe threat to the grandparents of your players.

We all need to be aware of the big picture; how can we be good neighbors to those around us? This crisis is worldwide, and it has already affected our lives. We are not coaching. We are not influencing young people. We are not even watching the game we love on TV. Those games have been suspended for now. I worry that we may lose many young coaches who may be forced to find an alternative career because they are unable to pay their bills as a coach. A month with no income could wipe them out financially.

Youth soccer will start up soon enough, and your busy soccer life will return. What’s important now is to keep an eye on your neighbor. Make sure they have what they need, and they know someone cares. Take the time to strengthen your relationships and “Wash Your Hands!”

(Greg Winkler is head coach Charlotte High School, Tarpon Boys Soccer in Punta Gorda, Florida, and the author of "Coaching a Season of Significance." Coach Winkler has been coaching youth and high school boys and girls since 1989 and is a United Soccer Coaches High School Advocacy Chair.)

2 comments about "More than ever, coaches should take care of themselves and be good neighbors to those around them".
  1. Dan Woog, March 15, 2020 at 12:04 p.m.

    Fantastic ideas. Coaches can model great behavior now -- by looking out for their players, colleagues and themselves. Thanks, Greg!

  2. Kevin Sims, March 16, 2020 at 1:33 p.m.

    Sympathetic to all of those concerns. Thanks for your great ideas, Greg. Let's all be mindful of helping those around us.

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