John Gomez Team Tryouts

My three kids play club soccer. The club just held tryouts. I tried hard to parent and teach my kids leading up to that week, and so I write about it here. As different as they are in everything they do, they play and approach soccer differently too. Tryouts, though, had a happy ending for them all.

My ten-year-old, “JD”, has been playing on one of the club’s “competitive” teams the last two years. While he is big and fast and skilled for his age, he often lacked aggression or real commitment. In both practice and games, he sometimes played passively and without real competitive purpose. He was somewhat disinterested about the whole process and would even complain at times about having to practice or play.

My eight year, Michael, on the other hand, is both exceptionally skilled and committed. In his first year of playing competitive soccer, he played on the top team in his age group and was arguably the best player on that team. In one tournament at the end of the year, he scored four goals in about 15 minutes. He lives and breathes soccer, and it shows. He would be happy playing every waking moment of his life.

His twin, Analise, tried out for competitive soccer this year for the first time. She was invited to play last year but graciously declined after being reminded that her dad was coaching her “recreational” team. Many of her friends had moved on to competitive, though, and she was excited to test herself against higher level players.

I decided to use the time and upcoming tryouts to teach them the value of goal setting, commitment and hard work.

The kids had a couple of months off between the end of the season and tryouts, and I decided to use the time and upcoming tryouts to teach them the value of goal setting, commitment and hard work. And so, we all sat down and wrote down our soccer goals and commitments to making it happen. They taped their sheets to the wall in their rooms. I wasn’t worried about Michael. But I didn’t know how seriously JD or Analise would take it. And it’s not that I want or need them to be great soccer players. I mainly wanted to ensure they learned the connection between hard work and success.

I played sports my whole life. And I am obviously a trial lawyer now. I was never the best athlete but I worked extremely hard. Likewise, and with law, I came from nothing and worked exceptionally hard both in law school and law. That work has led to happiness and success in my life, and so I hoped to share that connection with them.

Fortunately, I had some time between trials to work with them. We ran, drilled and they practiced on their own. We did speed work, physical and skill drills. They all worked very hard. The boys can be really competitive and hard on each other. It often got rough. There were often complaints and sometimes tears. Analise, playing against her much bigger older brother and highly skilled twin, would experience frustration and anger. At the end of each session, though, we would sit in a circle and reflect upon why we were working so hard. I would encourage Analise, in particular, by telling her how much she was improving by playing against the boys. Each of the kids would thank each other for making them better (the boys always begrudgingly).

I worked extremely hard…that work has led to happiness and success in my life, and so I hoped to share that connection with them.

I could see that they were improving but wasn’t sure exactly how that would translate into tryouts or actual play. But then, just before tryouts, JD’s team from the prior year entered a two-day tournament. On the way to the game, JD committed to his performance objectives. He would play aggressively and physically and run as hard as he could. I have tried to teach them that mindset and effort is by far the most important indicator of success and have encouraged them to set goals with that in mind. And so, I was happy that JD seemed to be getting it.

And so, I watched JD in this three games. It was shocking to see how much he had improved. He literally was the best player on his team. He was a completely different kid. After the final game, several parents complimented him for being the MVP. I could tell he was proud. He took that same effort into tryouts and was invited to play for the team of his choice. I am really happy I accomplished what I set out to teach him. He now clearly understood the connection between effort and results. He is already a super talented, smart and sweet kid. And so, if he continues to learn and apply those life lessons, he will enjoy much happiness and success in this world of ours.

Analise was both excited and nervous for tryouts. At the tryouts, the returning players wear the Club’s colors and jerseys. The new kids are a collection of different colors and looks. She borrowed her brother’s club practice jersey to “fit in” with the cool returning girls. She too was a completely different player. She scored two goals in the final day’s scrimmage and was also invited to play for the team of her choice. She is especially excited to play for a female coach for the first time.

Like I said, I was never worried about Michael. Tryouts for his team this year would be very competitive. His team was exceptionally good last year, and several very talented new kids wanted in. But the day before tryouts even began, his coach called. Michael was invited back to the team even before tryouts began. He was one of 5 players on the team that received that news. We didn’t tell him. We wanted him to continue to work hard, and especially, not to tell his friends who may not have received the same invitation. He applied his performance goals to tryouts and was thrilled to learn that he “made” the team three days later.

I pray for each of my kids daily and had especially prayed for JD and Analise. I wanted them to learn the lessons I was trying to teach them. I especially wanted them to be happy and proud of themselves. I can tell that Analise, in particular, is super proud of making the team. She wore her game jersey and socks to a birthday party on a non-game day last week. She is pretty girly and so I think she’s happy to join her brothers and friends at the next soccer level. Last week, Analise had an arena game. JD did pushups and did bounding jumps on the stairs while she played. He told me he wants to get stronger and faster for soccer. Wow. I would never have imagined that happening before. I’m so happy and proud of my kids I decided to write a blog about it. Thanks for reading my “tryouts” story.