One of the most gratifying moments you can have as a coach is when a player has a Eureka moment, that moment when he realizes that you are not, in fact, a blathering idiot.
Last fall at U13, I was on one of my wingers Paul* in the pre-season and early games to stay wide. This is, of course, one of the most common problems you face at that age level. He kept pinching in so far that he’d be only a few yards away from one of the forwards. Often, a cross would come in and bit a little too far for the forward and go past Paul as well. I was on him quite a bit about this. Paul was a good player and I knew if he held a wider position in these situations, he’d get goals.
So in final minute of our third game, one of my forwards drives a ball across the face of goal. It goes past the other forward. But because Paul had not pinched in too far, he settled the ball and ripped a shot into the goal.
As we were walking back to the parking lot, I congratulated Paul on his goal. He shrugged it off. He said, “I didn’t really have to do much. It came right to me…” And then his face light up with the Eureka moment. “… because I stayed wide,” he exclaimed.
“Wow,” I said with a grin, “it’s almost like your coach actually knows what he’s talking about.”
“Sometimes,” he cracked.
He ended up being our leading scorer on the season.
*-Not his real name