A couple of months ago, I wrote about the importance of being “better together.” I will say this again because it is worth mentioning: Here at Project 88.7, we preach and LIVE being “better together.” It sounds cliche, but it is something we take very seriously and aim to apply it to all aspects of our lives.
I took 13 girls from 8 different clubs to the Far West ODP Championships in Phoenix, Arizona. This was the moment we have been training for. All the anticipation and emotion. It all finally went down. This was the first year for these girls to partake in a great experience. There was a lot of nerves as the parents, players, and myself as a coach were going through this experience together for the first time. On the plane ride to Phoenix, I kept telling myself that my main goal REGARDLESS OF THE RESULTS, was that WE need to make sure that we can become “better together.”
With this said, I went into this tournament with one main goal: Do everything possible to create the type of environment where EVERYONE (Coaches, Parents, Administrators, and Players) can be the best version of themselves. If this could be accomplished, we would set ourselves up for success. The end result? We went undefeated in group play and then eventually went on to beat a very good Wyoming team to win the Far West Championship. A first for an Under-12 team from Idaho.
Being “better together” lead to more than a championship. It also lead to:
-One girl learning the difference between “playing to win vs. playing not to lose.”
-Letting your “nerves” work for you instead of against you.
-One girl who struggled to score all weekend. Her confidence was crushed. She finally learned to not allow her mistakes to define her. This girl went on to score the winning goal in the championship.
-Girls who learned to work out differences on and off the field by being positive and with effective communication.
-Girls who learned to play multiple positions they did not have much experience with and perform at a high level.
-Girls learning that you can never be “psyched up” for a game. You can only be “psyched out.”
-11 year-old girls learning how to live, play, and sleep in team rooms for the first time in a hotel being separated from their parents.
-Girls learning the definition of humility, being free of arrogance and pride.
-Girls learning to deal with the pressure of United States Youth Soccer Regional Coaches evaluating them in high pressure situations and watching their every move.
-Parents, who despite the intense nature of the tournament, remained positive and supportive of players, staff, and coaches.
-And finally, a coach who learned to mange his emotions in a hotly contested championship game.
It was a roller coaster of emotions for sure. We went up 1-0, then Wyoming scored to tie the game 1-1. We then had a defensive miscue where Wyoming capitalized and went up 2-1. I made some adjustments that allowed us to equalize 2-2, then we finally caught a break and scored to go ahead 3-2 with a few minutes left. We withstood an onslaught of firepower from a good Wyoming team which caused us to bend but not break. We held on to win.
There are more “wins” to list, but above all, we became “better together.” You know a performance environment is healthy when players see adversity as an opportunity to get better. Being “better together” allowed these girls to achieve something bigger than themselves: representing Idaho Youth Soccer on a regional platform.
The best part about this experience was that being better together forged a lot of connections and relationships that will last for years to come. The team got to celebrate on the big stage, hugs were exchanged, and goodbyes were said. The cycle is now over. Next year these girls will encounter a greater challenge. I know the girls are ready for it because they now know what can be achieved when we ALL work to be “better together.”