(Published Mar 10, 2020)
Jennie Carr and her family have been JCC members for almost eight years and throughout that time have come in to the facility at least five days a week. The kids have been involved in several areas of the J — early childhood, afterschool care, camp, basketball, martial arts, dance, gymnastics — but the family has found their niche in Allen Katner Youth Soccer.
Jennie has been coaching soccer at the J for about five years. She grew up playing the sport and has always loved it, but wanted to get even more involved once she had kids old enough to play. “I practically counted down to it!” Jennie said. “I wanted to be part of their experience playing the game.”
For Jennie, the most rewarding thing about coaching youth soccer is watching the kids grow as individuals and as a team. “All of the kids transform over the course of every season. It is really fun to be a part of that progress,” she said.
On coaching her sons “Often soccer is the first team sport that kids play. That was the case with my sons. I have since co-coached both of my boys, on every soccer team that they have been on so far.
As a parent, we spend a lot of time early on teaching our kids to share, and then suddenly we are encouraging them to take the ball away from friends. That is hard to understand for beginners. At first, when the ball was “stolen” from them on the field, I could see them looking at me like ‘Are you just going to stand there?!? Did you not see this?!’
I try very hard to treat my kids just like all of the other kids, though I admit that sometimes I may be a little harder on them, and they are the first to hang on my leg at practice. I plan to back away from coaching at some point, so that they can get the experience with others, but I enjoy coaching, so just haven’t done so yet.”
Coach Jennie’s Tips for Volunteer Coaches
- Don’t let inexperience hold you back from coaching “When coaching younger kids, I don’t think it’s all that important to know every detail about the sport. Part of it is just being enthusiastic and tying shoes!”
- Consider volunteering as a co-coach “I have had excellent experiences sharing the responsibility with another parent/guardian. Plus, when another commitment pops up, you aren’t in a scramble.”
- Focus on fun, and keep the kids engaged “Each kid needs their own ball for the majority of practice. Their attention spans are really short, so even when we talk as a team, we try to move with the ball at the same time.”
- It’s more fun to play with friends “I ask my players to acknowledge their teammates off the field as well. It can be a wave, a nod, a hello or high five in the hallway, just something. My hope is that they all become friends, or at least friendly, outside of soccer and for years to come. The JCC brings together kids from so many different schools, and I find that while they may not know each other at the start, they will end up seeing each other at JCC summer camp, aftercare or other sports and rec activities, so I try to facilitate those personal connections with teammates.”