Saturday, October 8, 2011

Winning and Losing

I haven't written anything about our team's current soccer season so far for several reasons. First, because I've missed a number of practices and several games due to various familial and work obligations. And, second, because I've been struggling with what to say about our team and our season.

Let's face it: it's easy to think of things to write when you're flying high (even if they're not always positive); a little tougher when you're inconsistent. Add to that the fact that I'm conscious of the possibility (although, in all likelihood, not the probability) that a current or future opponent's coach or players could read my posts and perhaps gain some insight into how to play against our team, or obtain bulletin-board material for when we do play them, and there are good reasons why I've been mum to this point.

With the regular season almost at an end, however, I've been assessing what our team, and I, have learned about ourselves this year.

The start to our season was very difficult, as we had suspected it would be. Only 13 players showed up the first day of practice and the girls had to recruit classmates just so we could have a realistic number of players. No rising ninth grade girls play soccer, so there was no infusion of talent from that class. Then, not only did we have a tough schedule, facing two AAA schools and a good Ohio team in a showcase tournament, we were missing three of our players who were not yet eligible.

Things have gotten better since that rough start and while we haven't won as many games as we have gotten used to over the past few years, or in fact in any of the years that I've been the coach, we have improved as a team and perhaps learned some lessons along the way. 

Our recent successes have meant that most of the small school teams that we will be paired with in the playoffs still refused to play us this season and as a result our schedule has still been filled for the most part with schools and programs that have several times the students and players that we do. So this season, as in the last few, we've been punching above our weight. But without that killer left hook that we had before.

Our small school brethren, however, may come to regret their decisions not to play us this year. Our team has improved on the field while being tested by many of the best teams in the state, regardless of class. While the results haven't always been what we hoped for, and while we all have never become satisfied with losing, we have learned to be pleased with the improvements in our effort and performance even in those losses. And our difficult schedule has required both players and coaches to be able to adapt to a variety of line-ups and positions in order to meet the challenges that each team has presented.

That improvement was evident today, as we battled our friendly rival University to a standstill in the first half, before eventually losing 2-0. But, for an extended period in the second half, we actually had them on their heels and played our best soccer of the season so far.

The saying goes that losing builds character. I'm not sure that's true. But I do believe that adversity reveals character and gives you the opportunity to grow, much more so than easy success does. While losing is clearly not as much fun as winning, the character building that our team has undergone this season may be exactly what we needed to ultimately be successful this season. The next two, or three, or four weeks will reveal just how much we've improved from the experience.

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