Life lessons from the soccer field

By Tonya Graser Smith

I’ve taken on a new job: soccer coach.

Last fall and again this spring, my friend, Dr. Erin Stone, and I teamed up to help our pre-kindergarten daughters and some of their pals learn a game we love. It has been challenging, fun and full of lessons… for all of us.

We will be on many teams throughout our lives. Cheer for your teammates, and they will cheer for you.

You always hear how important team sports are, and it’s so true. You are born into a family, which is its own team. You might have siblings, and that’s a team. School is full of teams. There are sports teams, academic teams, dance teams, debate teams. Work teams.

Of course, Erin and I are a coaching team. We share the goal of helping these young girls learn a sport and play on a team. We are confident they are learning more, too. They are learning valuable life skills – one of which is, when not playing, you are cheering for your team.

When in doubt, remember this: Same team, same team!

If you’ve ever seen little kids play soccer, you know they’re all running in every direction and not always with their teammates or toward their shared goal. Erin and I did a lot of reminding our players that they are a team. “Same team, same team!” we’d cheerfully and helpfully shout. Another go-to we’d call across the chaotic field: “Where’s our goal?”

It occurs to me that these verbal cues could be useful for all the other teams we’re on in our lives. When you’re in a heated discussion or having words with your partner, spouse, or child, saying “Same team, same team!” internally or aloud along with “Our goal is X, right?” just might be exactly what’s needed to get everyone back together.

Success is measured in many ways, but first you must put in the work.

Success isn’t always about winning. Or, rather, winning can mean a lot of different things and not always which team scored the most points.

When we started coaching last fall, Erin and I had all these overly ambitious goals. The girls, many of them clutching stuffed animals and other “lovies,” were staring at us like “What’s soccer?” and asking, “What does ‘hustle’ mean?” We quickly realized that we had to scale back and focus on the basics. Like having fun.

Success in our first season was measured by everyone on the team playing.

Success in our second season was measured by every girl wanting to play. And they all did. Nobody ever wanted to sit out or take breaks. They were all in.

So, what do you get when you mix a doctor and a lawyer and two seasons of coaching so far?

More seasons of new successes to come. And I can’t wait to find out what that will look like.