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The award winning student newspaper of Lake Oswego High School

Lake Views

The award winning student newspaper of Lake Oswego High School

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How a coach makes or breaks a player

Natalie’s Nonsense

As someone who has played soccer for 14 years, I have had my fair share of coaches. From recreational to club to indoor to high school, each coach has had different methods of guiding my teams to success. Although I have not always been on the state winning team, I feel like I have always had coaches who are supportive and push me to be the best individual and team player that I can possibly be; however, there is one coach that I have had who made me question my worth as a player ⎯ and ultimately ⎯ a person. 

In the competitive world of athletics, coaches play a pivotal role in not only technique and strategy but also in shaping an athlete’s character, skills and self-worth. In sports, mistakes happen and just like anything else, you learn from them. A good coach doesn’t shame you because of mistakes but instead helps you grow from them to ensure your success next time. 

My personal experience with this one coach, who will remain anonymous, made me realize that coaches aren’t always calm and collected when it comes to mistakes. As the season progressed, I witnessed some of my teammates’ as well as my own confidence slowly erode due to the constant criticism (that was rarely constructive), the belittling remarks and outright ignorance. As I continued trying to prove myself on the field during practice and at games, I was also trying to prove to myself that I had a place as a valuable player on this team and wasn’t only given “charity time” on the field. Although this coach had some good tactical points to ensure our success in gameplay, he definitely didn’t aid in making sure his whole team’s mental health was ready to get in the game. I found myself dreading practice and feeling incredibly anxious before games, not because of the challenges of the sport, but instead because of the constant fear of being humiliated or berated for a minor mistake. It was heartbreaking to feel so unsure of my abilities and also to see some of my teammates go through the same questioning process of their self-worth. 

The impact of words said to a player extends far beyond the game itself. A player’s confidence, or lack thereof, often seeps into other aspects of their life. It did for me. I would sometimes come home from soccer so upset that I didn’t even want to speak to anyone, putting my relationships in jeopardy. Academic performance may also be affected as a result of athletic stress and players may also face feelings of hopelessness just because of the lack of support they are receiving from someone who is supposed to guide and support them. 

Another issue that is often overlooked is favoritism. While some coaches claim to treat everyone equally, it is obvious that favoritism still exists whether they admit to it or not. When coaches show preferential treatment towards certain players, it can very quickly create an unfair and toxic team environment. The lack of transparency can often lead to players turning against their own teammates and feeling unsure of themselves. 

Looking back on this difficult experience, I realize that a coach’s words, while sometimes potent, don’t define your abilities and worth as an individual. The unfortunate reality, however, is that coaches possess the power to either encourage and boost their players’ confidence or fracture it irreparably. As a senior, I wish I was given the opportunity to have more time to bounce back and return to being a confident player rather than ending on such a low note. Despite my challenges under a difficult coach, I now know to seek mentorship from people who uplift, guide, understand and empower their athletes. In the hands of a supportive coach, a player can learn and grow without fear of being humiliated or punished for minor mistakes. It creates an environment that fosters confidence for players to succeed both on and off the field. 

Overall, if you take anything away from this, my suggestion would be to not play on a team where you are afraid of your own coach.

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