“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.
– talking to adults about marriage problems.
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, 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.
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 on good terms with their wives.
In fact, I respect them a ton for this degree of high-pressure training.
However, 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 piss poor 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 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. Can I listen to high school drama?
3. Can I listen aggressively?
4. Do I get a buzz 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:
And I get an adrenaline rush when I tell kids they have been half-assing planks their entire lives:
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. Sure, there are a plethora of things pro coaches must continue to teach and tackle, like fatigue monitoring, stress management, tactical periodization, and injury reduction, 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 just dope to see.
And you know what? I couldn’t be excited for the next stage to do the same.