October 2, 2014

10 Signs You're Not Coaching in America Anymore

My identity as a coach has been challenged often, was confused for a while, and has now generally stabilized here in France.

Here are the top 10 differences I've observed since taking up the French version of my coaching profession in 2011.

10. Practice "starts" at 6:00pm, which means kids will arrive anytime between 5:55pm and 6:45pm.

9. Nobody comes to the gym in their practice gear. Allot 10-15 minutes for locker room time as part of your practice plan.

8. I'm sorry, practice plan? Don't plan practice until warm-ups start. If you do it in advance, you're just going to have to change it anyway because some people will be there, and some people won't. Sometimes 6 months into season, a new random kid will show up. Awesome. Be ready for 16 to come to some practices, and 6 to come to others. By June, you'll be lucky if you still have 8 coming to games.

7. If a kid barely rolls their ankle, you will not see them for a minimum of 2 weeks. If they have a real injury, you will not see them for a minimum of 6 weeks. There is zero value in being at practice and listening/learning/helping.

I could have definitely used some help.
6. Teenage boys never shut up and are way more moody than teenage girls.

5. Two practices a week are apparently way too much to ask of a kid. I regularly let them know: don't ever try to play school sports in America.

4. It's just for fun. There's no varsity team to make, no scholarship to earn, and no reason to go outside of your comfort zone. And by "fun," I don't mean fun for coaches.

Timeouts are for photos! NOT!
3. The "Team/Family Identity" is nearly impossible to instill. When someone doesn't "want" to do what the rest of the team is doing (game, drill, exercise, whatever), they are benched the rest of practice. This does not usually affect them long term at all, but at least they won't be in the way of the activity anymore.

Team handstands were my epic success.
2. Cigarettes are the choice pre- and post-practice activity (for "athletes" sometimes as young as 14). Note to self: include sprints in every training.

1. Daily self-mantra for coaches?

"It's not me, it's you."

I thought the problem was me for way too long.
We didn't leave America because of the coaching. We loved coaching our sports and teams, and while we miss the intensity, commitment, and excitement of those jobs, we don't miss the workload. From the moment we woke up to the moment we fell asleep, we were constantly thinking about what needed to be done, how we could do it better, and we knew if we didn't do it, we would fall behind. It was all-consuming, and not in a good way.

Simpson University Women's Volleyball Program 2010
[Front row, L-R: Micaela, Jenny, Liz, Kelly T., KJ, Kelly B.
Back row, L-R: Team Dad Rich, Me, Manager Paige, Cashel, Jackie, Becca, Kaitlin,
Lauren, Chanel, Lindsay, Assistant Coach Sarah, Assistant Coach Brooke.]
We love the life outside of sports that France provides us, even if that means the coaching job side of things is severely lacking.

But you want to know the biggest difference between coaching in America and coaching in France?

America: 40-60 hours per week.

France: 4-14 hours per week.


It makes dealing with the other 10 differences not so difficult after all.