Last Weekend of Saturday Sport!

Today was the last game for my school soccer team. One of the joys of working in the Independent School system here in Victoria is Saturday Sport. When I say 'joy', what I really mean is 'most annoying thing ever'. At our school, and most other independent schools, students are required to play two nine-week seasons of sport, one in the winter and one in the summer. Training is once a week after school and the games are on Saturday mornings. And of course, all of these teams need coaches and teachers to manage them. As a teacher part of my contract is that I manage a team for one season. This was something the school neglected to tell me when I signed on, and it is very elusively referred to as 'extra-curriculars' in my contract. I think most Australians know that this is a requirement in private schools, but it came as a complete shock to me. I actually think I would have reconsidered working here if the school had initially told me I'd be coaching sport on Saturday mornings! 

A winter game at my school

Last year I was given the Intermediate (14-16 year olds) girls soccer team. They had a 'real' coach during training sessions so I just had to turn up and mark attendance every Tuesday after school. That coach wasn't able to make the games so on Saturday mornings I was on my own. It was a pretty awful experience to be honest, as I know nothing about coaching soccer. Yes, I know the general aim of the game (score goals and don't let the other team score), and I even know the offside rule, but I had no idea about who should play where, what they should be doing, when I should make a substitution, etc. All the other teams we played seemed to have 'real' coaches who would be shouting out instructions during the game, and I was just on the sidelines saying things like "good try!" and "well done girls!" Pretty lame. I felt like the girls were getting a bit of a bum deal with just me as their coach, and as a result I felt pretty crappy after every game, as if I had taught a really bad lesson. The one good thing was that the girls didn't take the games seriously and didn't seem terribly upset when we lost almost every game.

At the end of the season I asked the Head of Sport if I could have a real coach during games, as I felt it wasn't fair on the girls that they weren't getting proper coaching. Their parents are spending a small fortune to send their children to the school after all, and the sport programme is one way we are different to a state school. They were really receptive and as Andy did some coaching for my school when we first arrived in Melbourne (he coached the First boys team who went to the Grand Final) it was agreed that Andy could coach my team this year.

What a difference that has made! Andy coming to the games made Saturday sport so much less stressful for me. And, not only that, our team improved so much over the season. We still didn't have a great record (we've ended up with 4 wins and 5 losses, although we were back in England for one of the games so to Andy we were 4-4!) but the difference in how the girls play from our first game until today has been remarkable. It's also been so nice to see Andy doing what he loves. I think this team was a challenge for him as these girls were not very 'serious' about soccer and they just wanted to have fun. However I do think he got them a bit more interested in actually winning as the season went on, and our last game today was a real nail biter! Sadly we lost, but it was a close game, and considering we lost to this team 5-0 earlier in the season it was a huge improvement. We went to Nandos after the game with some of the girls, and one of the parents told us how much fun her daughter had playing that season. That is the main goal for me, that they enjoy themselves each Saturday, so it was nice to hear from a parent.

Anyway, as much as I have enjoyed seeing Andy coach, and even watch the games, I am NOT sad that we don't have to wake up early anymore on a Saturday morning to go to the games! I have 41 more weekends to enjoy before the start of next season, hurray!

Giving instructions at half time


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