An Upsetting Experience
at the National "D" Course

Before I arrived for orientation I had already heard all the stories and rumors surrounding the "D" Course — you won't learn anything new, you won't use anything you learn, it's difficult to pass, it's mainly for "Rec" coaches, etc., etc.

I have to admit, I was not too excited about leaving my family for five days based on what I had heard. Nevertheless, I went with an open mind and a positive attitude. I went there to become a better "Coach."

I'm writing down my experience to dispel most of the rumors surrounding the "D" Course. It is difficult to pass, grueling and at times stressful. However, it was one of the best experiences in my life. Yes, you go over the "9 Steps" that we all learned at the "F" course and you'll learn several different ways to use the 9 Steps to better your team.

The "D" course, though, is more than just the 9 Steps, drills and tactics.

For me, the most valuable lesson I'm taking away from the "D" course is the realization of just how much of an impact we have on our players, both psychologically and emotionally. We're thought of as coaches and role models and it's easy to forget how much our verbal and nonverbal actions affect our children/players.

The examples and classroom demonstrations given by Coach Karl and others really made me stop and think about how I was conducting myself on the sidelines and at practice. It's easy to lose sight of the fact that these players are still just "kids." We see them as tough athletes who give you everything they've got at practice and at games. But when it comes right down to it, they're really just "kids" that are doing the best they can, playing a game that they love. We can change that with one harsh word, one turn of our back or flare of our arms.

During one of our classroom sessions, Coach Karl made it clear that he does NOT believe young players should be subjected to tryouts. My first reaction was, "He's crazy." I realize that tryouts are tough on young players — some kids are disappointed and some are ecstatic. However, I didn't realize just how disappointed those players may have felt until I experienced it first-hand at the "D" Course.

After completing the "D" Course, you can end up with three different results.

  1. National "D"
  2. State "D"
  3. Make-up (some or all portions of the course!)

Being a competitive person, I really wanted to get my "National D." I wanted to "make the team." I worked hard, I studied hard and I took good notes. At the end of my field session, my instructor and my teammates even said I did a good job. I thought for sure I would "make the team."

However, I didn't "make the team." We'll, not the team that I wanted. I was given the State "D." Now, there's nothing wrong with the State "D," but I still felt like I had failed. I was upset.

I tossed and turned all night and still woke up grumpy. After a couple of hours that morning, it hit me. I started thinking back about what Coach Karl had said about the emotional impact tryouts can have on young players. If I felt like a failure and was this upset as an adult, I can only imagine how upset and horrible these young children must feel after hearing they didn't "make the team."

I'm not saying I have a better solution for forming teams and I'm not condemning coaches for having tryouts, but after my experience, I will definitely be taking a long look at how my team(s) conduct tryouts and do my best to manage the expectations of the players and the parents.

Please remember, we impact these players on many different levels. Being a coach is more than just X's and O's. You have a much bigger impact on the kids than you realize. I'll be choosing my words and actions much more carefully in the future.

We should do our best to make sure every kid feels like they've "made the team." The "D" Course was a great eye-opening experience for me. On top of all that, I learned a lot about soccer and made a lot of new friends.

Thank you to Coach Karl and instructors/evaluators Hans deGraef, Joe Esfandiary, Ahmet Ibrahim, and Hervi Rualo.

Want to become a better youth coach like Jim Lawrence?

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