Jean Croker Petke

You’re all on the same team

You’re all on the same team

I spent part of my weekend watching 4-year-olds play soccer.  I’ve written about kids’ basketball before. This is much the same.

Most of them can run really well

Most of them can kick the ball

Most of them know the name of their team

Most of them have adults on the sidelines, cheering them on

The game was between The Force in grey jerseys and The Wildcats in blue jerseys. Goals were scored, though I’m not sure which team won — and it doesn’t really matter. The Boy (4 1/2 year old grandson) played for The Force.

Several times during the game the Wildcats coach said to his young team: “Don’t keep stealing the ball from each other. You’re on the same team.”

They understood it as well as any young kid can. But . . . they also know they’re supposed to scramble hard to control the ball, take it from the other team, and head for a goal. And they know the difference between the grey shirt players and the blue shirt players. What they don’t understand is how to cooperate, to help other players on the team get the ball closer to the goal. They only know what to do if they have the ball themselves, as an individual.

As I watched, I realized that playing a team sport is a complex affair for young kids. The learning to be a team member comes gradually over time. You have to live with it a while and practice a lot and listen to the coach before you really get it. We adults want them to learn so much quicker than is possible for them.

I got to pondering while I was watching and listening to the Wildcat coach.

  • How often do we do the very thing that keeps someone else, or our team, from succeeding?
  • How often do we think someone else’s success means less opportunity for us?
  • How often do we ignore the opportunity to be supportive of someone else’s struggle and striving?
  • What would happen if we put our own need to be the star (to make the winning play)  aside and do what the team needs to really win?

As I’ve said several times before, we can learn a lot by watching children learn new skills and try things that seem to be beyond their years. Here’s what I learned on the soccer field Saturday:

  • listen to the coach
  • know who your teammates are
  • be a helper
  • standing and watching others on your team is not the same as moving the ball
  • know where your goal is; head in that direction
  • take an occasional break for water and regrouping
  • hustle, hustle, hustle even when you’re hot and tired

Here are a few things for your own pondering:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • Who is your coach? How often do you check in with your coach?
  • Who is your team?

Now might be a good time to reconsider a few things, particularly if your progress is not quite what you had in mind when you started.

Until next Tuesday . . .