“Erica, do you aspire to coach college?”
“Do you want to work for a professional club?”
“Is your goal to train the U.S. national team?”
“Do you want to become Queen of the North?”
These are questions I’m asked all the time.
As a youth soccer performance coach, I’m always interrogated on my career goals. People are tripped out that I train kids for a living, and could be stuck doing this the rest of my life, as if it’s a burden.
I could think of several more things that are a burden:
– talking to adults every day.
– talking to adults about taxes.
– talking to adults about politics.
Yeah. I choose kids.
Alas, I can’t blame people for questioning what I do. I mean come ON: people in the performance industry often see success as being able to call the shots for a professional club, or hang out with Cristiano Ronaldo in the gym.
“Making it” to that end means you’re finally training pros, and not kids who are in the beginning stages of development.
I, for one, consider myself a weird cat when it comes to defining “success.”
Almost as weird as my own cat:
Admittedly, I feel working for the pros is overrated. But that’s my truth.
Now, this isn’t to say I don’t respect performance coaches who work for the pros, especially the ones who are pressured to manage fatigue, periodize around a 1,000-game schedule, defend themselves to their managers, all while staying sane and balancing family life. Working with the pros, to that end, comes with its own set of challenges that I wouldn’t be able to handle. So mad respect to these guys.
However, I’d be remiss not to say training pros doesn’t mean you’ve reached success as a coach.
I, for one, pride myself in youth athletic development for several reasons. One, I get to see kids grow over an extended period of time – from the moment they demonstrate awkward coordination, to the breakthrough moment they learn to skip and sprint properly, to the moment they get their first cartwheel down, to the moment they can hinge without throwing their back out, to the moment they deadlift 1.5x their bodyweight, to the moment they blossom into unstoppable college athletes who can perform a workout flawlessly without my supervision.
I always joke with my college girls: “ya’ll don’t need me anymore. Go to Planet Fitness and work out on your own.” Alas, they still stay with me. I’m convinced it’s for the jokes and good vibes. ;-O
Expounding further, I don’t especially enjoy talking to adults. I’d much rather go into work, talk about DisneyWorld, discuss how awesome Snickers bars are, debate whether or not SnapChat or Instagram is better, talk about Homecoming fashion ideas, or play Rock-Paper-Scissors mid-core work:
There’s something magical about being surrounded by kids who have an innocent love for life and have a passion for living in the moment. It’s an environment that breathes life into me. And selfishly, I kind of sort of like playing the part of the “mom” since I don’t have kids of my own.
Training youth athletes, therefore, is downright rewarding. So if you’re a performance coach who is deciding who to work with, ask yourself these questions:
1. Who do I want to talk to the entire day?
2. When do I feel most immersed in the moment?
3. Do I get energy from coaching this population?
Honestly, I feel I’d be bored coaching professionals. Why? Well, I get an adrenaline rush when I have to teach beginner female athletes the benefits of strength training. I get an adrenaline rush when I have to answer questions on the benefits of coordination training on the corpus callosum development in kids. I get an adrenaline rush when teaching kids the deadlift for the first time:
I just love teaching.
And I feel I wouldn’t be able to wear my “teaching hat” as much with the pros. At that point, they already know how to lift, train, and condition. (Caveat: there are some pro clubs who are way behind in the strength and conditioning world, and they are the exception).
Adding on, pro coaches have a plethora of things they must continue to teach and tackle, like fatigue monitoring, stress management, tactical periodization, and psychological barriers, but this much I know: I love teaching beginners the ropes.
It’s also worth mentioning I’m a huge fan of “the process.” And youth athletic development is the longest process out there. Err, well, besides Frodo hiking across Middle Earth and destroying the Ring of Power.
With that said, it’s amazing to see kids grow into their best selves, both physically and mentally. Seven years later as a coach, and I’m finally starting to see my first stage of athletes blossom. Whether this is in their D1, D2, or D3 pursuits, or becoming the leading scorers on their teams, or starting fulfilling careers, it’s amazing to see.
And you know what? I couldn’t be excited for the next generation of my athletes to do the same.