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As a sports parent, it has always made me feel uncomfortable to hear the rumblings of other parents about the volunteer coach. The conversations usually start out a little like this: “I appreciate that he/she is willing to coach, however…”

Did you ever notice that anything said after the “however” usually negates everything else that was said before it?  I am usually quick to jump to the coach’s defense but it seems to wind up falling on deaf ears. 

I have spent 20 years as a soccer coach at all different levels; most of my experience has been as a paid coach or trainer and not a volunteer.  This past year, I took over as the volunteer head coach of my son’s U9 Travel Soccer team.  I am quickly learning the roles and responsibilities that I have as a volunteer coach far outweigh those that I ever had with any of my paid positions. 

You can go to just about any soccer field in any town and usually spot the volunteer head coach of any team.  They are the ones that look like they are leaving on a long vacation lugging the huge bag of equipment.  As a paid coach, my players would bring the balls, pinnies, medical kit, score book, water, ice and need to make sure the balls are blown up.  If any of them forgot the equipment for practice, they would have gotten a lot of exercise and would not have forgotten again anytime soon.  All those jobs delegated by the paid coach fall to the volunteer coaches.

As a paid coach, the lines are very clear.

You are the parent, and I am the coach of your child.  In most cases, paid coaches do not have their own children, or any relatives for that matter, on their team because it would be considered a conflict of interests. As a volunteer coach the lines are rarely clear. The parents of the players on your team are sometimes friends and at least they are your peers. I’ve always felt that dealing with parents in a volunteer situation was more difficult than a paid one.  Maybe I care what they think more.  I have definitely run into more parents that are “soccer-coaching experts” as a volunteer coach.  Perhaps it is due to the constant access that the parents have to the volunteer coach as opposed to a paid one.


On a personal level, a big change as a volunteer coach is having to rush around to make sure my child is ready for practice or a game on top of all my coaching responsibilities.  Think about how difficult it is to get your children ready for their sport. They can’t find their uniform, their homework isn’t done, or the infamous, “I don’t want to go!” statement.  Volunteer coaches deal with the same thing that other sports parents do.  However, once you drop your child off your job is over, while the volunteer coach’s job is just beginning.

The reason that I am pointing these differences out is, no matter what sports parents say, they have no idea all the things that volunteer coaches do for their kid’s team unless they have done it themselves.  A lot of times the same parents that have all the complaints are ones that could have volunteered to coach as well and did not. 

Perhaps the next time a coach shows up a few minutes late or doesn’t play your child exactly where you think they should, maybe you could cut them a little slack. 


 

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    About Mark

    Mark Housel, owner of Housel Fun and Fitness, began playing soccer at 7. He has been involved in the sport his whole life - as a player in high school and college and since graduating college he has been active as a paid and volunteer coach.

    His first coaching experience was volunteering for the Beachwood Soccer club. Since then, he has coached at William Paterson University for the Men and Women’s teams; spent four years coaching middle school girls soccer at MacFarland Junior School in Bordentown and then two years of Junior Varsity and one year as a varsity assistant for the Northern Burlington High School boys team. 

    After coaching at Northern, he started his own soccer-training business for two years.
    Housel, a lifelong New Jersey resident, is a Health and Physical Education Teacher and has spent the past 13 years working in seven different schools and guiding thousands of children throughout the Garden State.  A 1999 recipient of the NJ Governor “Teacher of the Year” award at his school, he has received numerous teaching awards and grants since then. He also has presented numerous teaching workshops at both the state and local level.   

    Housel, who shares his passion for soccer with his wife and three sons in Burlington County, currently is a volunteer coach. When he is not coaching, he enjoys watching his sons play basketball, baseball, tennis and hockey.  

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