Your Letters & Pictures

We received the game of soccer as an inheritance. It’s our duty to pass it on to the next generation.

Playing soccer is fun. But I don’t agree when we continue to put a lot of emphasis on having fun. Soccer is clearly a game and consequently it’s fun by itself, otherwise, it would not be ‘classified’ as game! But it’s not only about having fun.

Has anyone noticed the main sentence on top of my past 155 newsletters and on the top of my website? In my opinion, “Soccer is leadership, belonging, organization, ownership, respect, sacrifice and challenge put together with the glue of discipline.”

Soccer is something that was able to survive through the centuries, if not through the millenniums, and just reducing it to the one expedient of having fun, is deeply reductive! I believe that one of the duties of coaches is to transmit the inheritance that we received to the next generation. If you coach soccer, and you have never played soccer, it’s up to you to find the way to fill up this hole!

As I said, to play soccer is already fun by itself and, in my opinion, there isn’t any reason to make it more fun. Instead, let's try to transmit the magic of the game by underlining that this game survived through a few world wars and was one of the things that helped human kind to overcome that horror. If you’ve read a few testimonials in the past issues trough the years, you have read how youth players, and consequently their generations that are now 70 years old, find a way to remember that they were kids, thanks to the distraction of soccer! It was their refuge.

When they were young, they learned to play soccer in the streets. They, like me, played hours every day, rain or shine, good shoes or not, soccer ball or not, goals or not, without referees, coaches, chalk lines, standings, leagues, play offs, demanding parents, and so on. They played just for the love of the game. I hope that youth players who read these testimonials (maybe parents can encourage them to read it) will better understand that the real meaning of playing soccer is deeply spontaneous, and it is the simplest expression of the pure joy of existing and being a kid. A few lucky of us were able to allow that kid to live forever inside us and continue to feel the same joy just kicking the ball around on the sand, on the dirt, on the concrete, on the asphalt or, sometimes, on the grass.

In the last few millenniums, wars were stopped to play the Olympic Games. More recently, soldiers in the trenches, after having shot at each other with the intention to kill the whole year, at Christmas, came out spontaneously from the trenches and fraternized, just playing soccer for more that one hour, forgetting that they were enemies and their only goal to be there was, in fact, to kill each other!

Soccer is part of the human civilization and, as I said, relegating it to just a game is deeply reductive.

As I underlined in other newsletters, sooner or later we’ll all breathe the same air and we will drink the same water. And because grass is basically air and water, sooner or later, all of today’s soccer players will step on the same grass where a long time ago USA defeated England (the inventor of modern soccer), where North and South Korea, after having killed each other for dozen of years, finally played together wearing the same jersey, where Iran and Iraq come together to play a game without fighting in the stands, where money is raised to help less fortunate countries, where comradeship and friendship reach their highest level, where racial problems are finally left behind, where youth players can challenge themselves to become the future ruling class of our Country!

Please, don’t misunderstand me. I’m the first to underline that soccer has to be fun, make it fun, and played in a way that makes kids have fun, but please, explain to them that when they enter onto a soccer field, that piece of grass surrounded by a white chalk line is something deeply different than all the other pieces of grass! In that rectangle of grass, the greatest players have done their magic and, by stepping onto the field, it’s like playing with them! It’s an honor to step on the same grass, on the same field and, even if sometimes we can laugh at something funny that has happened, it is not normal to constantly laugh over and over, as if the idea is reduced to constantly saying something funny to make the others laugh and never, ever, remember that stepping onto a soccer field is something more profound and involves respect for the beautiful game that they inherited by stepping onto the field and wearing a soccer jersey. In doing that, when they come onto the field to play a game, aside from having the deserved fun, they represent themselves, their teammates, their families, their schools, their coaches, and the jerseys that they wear are a kind of flag that represents all of this and all of them!

So, to reduce the fun of soccer to the same fun that can be had with a video game or by watching a teenage nonsense movie, I believe is deeply wrong and, doing this, in a few dozen years, will make the magic of the past disappear. If this happens, without all of us who have lived that magic, it will disappear forever. We have the duty to make them understand that magic, by constantly reminding them what soccer is and was, by telling them the stories of the greatest games we have seen, the greatest players performances, maybe teach them their moves, challenge them to use them during the game, free their imagination in creating new moves that one day, other coaches, who may be some of these youth players, will teach their future youth players.

Also try to show them great games live at the stadiums. So, when they go back and play, they will try to imitate the champion’s moves and style. This will push them in trying to get better, more than all the instructions that we try to transfer to them, because they saw directly what it means to be great!

If you are lucky enough to have good soccer skills and play during the week end, even better. Just looking at you, your kids will dream, one day, to be on the field like mom and dad and score goals.

Emulation is the greatest motivator. So, just do the right things and say the right words, not necessarily directly to them. They will copy you from the beginning… especially when they are very little and not talking yet. The fact that they don’t talk yet, doesn’t mean that they don’t listen or see!

Through these two senses, in the first 3 years, they will acquire almost the totality of the information that will accompany them through the journey of their life. Give them good companions to travel with.

Soccer, could be one of them, even if, of course, there are other hundreds of good companions like books, brushes, canvas, musical instruments, pets, travels, sunsets, dawns, fires, songs, movies, paintings, sculptures, oceans, skies, grass, sand, blue eyes, old t-shirts and……………………… on and on, and the best companion ever that are………………… parents. Real ones. Possibly two!

Naturally, all I said at the beginning about the fun on soccer, is referred to kids that are 11-12 years old. Before this age, we have to do anything we can, to encourage kids to go back to playing spontaneous pick up games and not wait for the parents to drive them to the field one time a week, to play in organized soccer situations. This is the ONLY way to create the new generation of soccer players who learn the soccer skills by themselves, by playing 2 or 3 hours everyday. After, when they are 11-12 years old, they can join a regular soccer team and begin to be trained by professional coaches who will teach them how to move and play together as a team, besides continue developing their soccer skills.

In conclusion, if having fun is reduced to just laughing because, very impolitely, someone keeps ‘burping‘ very loudly during practice, I believe that we will have a generation who will laugh for anything, almost not knowing why anymore!

Coach Gianni
Posted on 02 Oct 2006 by coachgianni
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