One of the tougher aspects of coaching.

Coaches in general often think they can "coach up" anyone and make them a contributing member of a team.  In most cases the object of their attention is the would be star with a horrible attitude.  This is not always the case though.  I myself am in the midst of trying to figure out how to coach up a young man who is good kid and loyal to our team.  Yet over the last 3 springs he has fallen behind his teammates in his development.

Players all develop at different rates but rarely does the disparity grow to this extent. "Mark" is basically the same player he was three seasons ago.  Individual player rankings of our team from years ago would have found Mark middle of the pack. Now, Mark is the last player on a 19 man roster.

I have the power to cut Mark from the team, but have been reluctant to do so for a number of reasons.  Family friend, attends the same high school as my son, he's very athletic and in a way he needs soccer and perhaps more specifically, this team.  This is one I am loath to give up on and so I continue to try.

One of the tougher aspects of coaching is recognizing when to let go of a favorite player.  I know Mark cannot compete with his current teammates. He lacks game vision to an extraordinary degree. This is undoubtedly related to the fact he learns differently than most.  I feel I have failed Mark as I have not discovered a way to properly teach him.  It is not that Mark is incapable of learning - he is a bright intelligent young man.  He's just not catching on as his teammates have and continue to do.

Keeping him with this team would be a disservice to his teammates especially if there is an expectation on Mark's part that he would receive playing time commensurate with that of his teammates.  Mark is the weak link on the pitch when he's in the game.

Now, in fairness, Mark is playing up an age group with this team.  When that decision was first made 4 years ago, this was appropriate for Mark.  As time has passed and his teammates have left him behind, this team is no longer appropriate for Mark to be on.  His teammates have been patient, understanding and helpful. Many have tried to mentor him and help him develop his game further with the same frustrating results I have had.  Mark's teammates appreciate he does not belong with this team and it's beginning to show as Mark continues to struggle with his play.

As coaches we know there is always that one player who, because their level of play is lacking, breakdown every exercise.  They are the one who always loses possession of the ball for their team often by self-inflicting pressure.  They are the one that opponents always seek to isolate and take advantage of because they lack self-discipline and will repeatedly stab or dive in effectively eliminating themselves from play.  Mark has become that player on this team.

Thankfully, there is another option for Mark. We will field a "B" team this next season.  Previous attempts to move Mark down to his own age group have been met with emotional responses. This is not unexpected, but the degree to which it manifested itself was.  Mark and his family essentially gave me an ultimatum that he either plays with our team or he won't be playing at all.  I am hopeful the idea of still playing up but doing so on the "B" team will be palatable to Mark and his family.  He needs to play and will not get that chance with the "A" team. With the "B" team he should play the majority of each match.

If Mark and his family are not agreeable to this, I will have to accept the challenge of their ultimatum and cut him from the team.  Even if that means he will not play soccer at all.  What it comes down to is the necessity of doing what is best for the team with an understanding that no one person is more important than the collective team. 

I am making one last attempt to bring Mark up to speed with this team.  If it is unsuccessful, I will move him to the "B" team and continue working with him in that setting.  I will need to take a step back from where that group from where the "A" team is now.  I am hopeful "re-taking" a season of soccer lessons will be enough to help Mark develop his game further.  As a coach, this is my "Hail Mary" attempt to reach Mark.  I pray that it works.

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