The 2016 junior football season ended for the Matamata Eagles on Saturday at Jansen Park in Hamilton.
Like many other volunteer coaches across the country my feeling is more relief than disappointment that the season’s over. It was a volatile few months, to be fair.
Volatile, perhaps, isn’t the correct word to use and I don’t mean it in the angry, hot-tempered sense of the word. It was more an unstable and unpredictable season and, at times, I struggled with it.
We had our ups, when I thought: ‘Yes, I’m making a difference!’ We had a run of games where our shape was good, the players worked hard and they were rewarded for their efforts with some good results.
Then there were downs, like just about every training session since the July school holidays. It seemed like I was spending most of my time asking the kids to give me a few seconds so I could explain what I needed them to do. They seemed more interested in drilling footballs into each other.
It was difficult at times but when I look back I can appreciate that I was working with a group of 8 and 9 year old kids who were just being kids. They were mostly interested in football, but not obsessed. They mostly wanted to just play rather than improve. They were up for games…not so much for training.
This all led to inconsistency in our performances. Our results over the Championship part of the season – a home and away league against three good Hamilton-based sides – weren’t great but results are largely secondary at that age.
It was performances I was looking for. We did well, mostly. There was one real shocker, which resulted in an absolute hiding from the Hillcrest United Vikings. But we turned that around when we played them in our final game on Saturday.
No, the result didn’t go our way but we sure put in a performance. Hillcrest was a well organised team with a couple of really good individuals. But we gave them a real fright. Most pleasing for me, the Eagles held their shape, played the ball wide from the back and even, at times, pressed the ball when we didn’t have possession.
We had players talking, taking responsibility and running their little socks off. The only reason we lost is because the players just ran out of gas during the second half. I can live with that.
It was what I was hoping for every week. So I have to be pleased with the way we ended the season.
My takeaways from the season are pretty straight-forward.
- With young players I need to be less fixated with relatively small details and just work on two or three simple themes over the course of the season.
- I think I could also do more at a one-on-one level with the players. Looking back, there were a couple of players I could have helped more if only I’d made the time.
- And always, always reinforce that football is fun!
I’ll probably be coaching an 8th grade team in 2017. My youngest son, Theo, will be moving out of Matamata’s Mini-Kickers group and into the big time and I think it’s right I spend some quality football time with him. It helps, a lot, that Theo’s mad for football. Nathan, who I’ve had with the Eagles the last two years, really isn’t and, if I’m honest, I’ve struggled with that. It doesn’t help when the coach’s son was the team’s main distractor-in-chief…
I’m not sure what will happen with the Eagles next season. Six of the nine players should form the core of a 10th grade team, hopefully with three players who ended up playing in a 10th grade this season (but were actually 9th graders).
That has the makings of a good solid team.
We had two 8th graders playing up this year and I think they’d benefit from playing against kids their own age next season. Then there’s, Nathan. I’m not sure if he’s all that interested in playing football…but who knows what a new year will bring. When you’re a Football Dad there’s always hope.
Anyway, for now, I’m glad to have a break.