Incorporate Gratitude into Your Season featuring Greg Winkler, United Soccer Coaches High School Advocacy Chair

This is my reflection on a COVID high school soccer season. As I reflect on my season, many of my coaching peers are in the process of finally playing theirs. My former coaching colleagues from Wisconsin who have played boy’s soccer in the Fall missed that season in 2020 but are currently playing a shortened Spring season in 2021. My midwest girl’s soccer coaching colleagues are gearing up for an abbreviated Spring season after abandoning their 2020 campaign. I hope you are trying to provide an opportunity for your players in the coming months; the best of luck.

As I stated, this is my reflection on a COVID season. In Florida, we played our regular Winter season. We did not know if we would start – we did. We did not know if we would finish our season – we did. We did not know if games would be canceled – some were. We did not know if things would be normal – they were not.

The thing we did know – Every day would be a blessing, and we took the practice field grateful to be able to get one more session completed. For my team, we struggled. We played a total of 19 games, including the playoffs, but we had our starting line-up together for 3 of those games. Only three times during the season did we put our best 11 on the pitch. We had freak injuries; we had COVID quarantines; we had two red cards with a program that had 1 in the last decade. I am telling you that things will be different.

Our players missed the entire 4th quarter of the previous year. Some of these young people struggled with mental health issues and isolation. We did our best to have “zoom” meetings and challenges, but Zoom is not an answer. We all need human contact. Our players need us more than we ever really know. My advice to all of you reading this is to be there for your players. Some of you will compete for championships and titles, but this is a year to focus solely on your players.

Teach them to be grateful for the opportunity to play. Talk to them about things other than soccer. Let them know that they mean more to you as a person than what they do on the field. Our kids need us to be present for them now – more than ever.

Whatever your season looks like this year, embrace it and embrace your player. If your season is like mine, it will be the weirdest season you have ever been a part of. It may have been a different season, but I believe the relationships I built with my players are stronger because of our journey.

Enjoy the ride and go into each practice and game with an “attitude of gratitude.”