U.S. World Cup goalie thankful for positive coaches during her youth
By Greg Bach
U.S. World Cup soccer goalie Alyssa Naeher was really lucky during her youth sports playing days.
And she knows it.
“I feel that I was really fortunate to get the different coaches that I had growing up and that as a kid I never got one of those crazy, psycho coaches that are just yelling and screaming at a 10-year-old the whole time,” Naeher told SportingKid Live. “I was always really lucky to have coaches, even at a young age, that were more concerned with teaching us about the game, teaching us about different things like teamwork and working hard, and focusing on enjoying it and having fun.”
Naeher, the talented 27-year-old who backed up Hope Solo during the Red, White and Blue’s march to World Cup glory this summer and was the 2014 Goalkeeper of the Year in the National Women’s Soccer League, looks back on her youth sports experiences and is grateful for all the positive influences she encountered along the way.
And who knows, maybe if she would have got one of those yellers and screamers that kids dread playing for she never would have stuck with the sport and would have missed out on being a part of World Cup history.
“I think being able to have those positive influences growing up was huge,” she says. “And obviously as I got older things got more and more competitive and coaches pushed really hard and tried to get the absolute best out of me, but at the same time I always felt they had my back and that was huge.”
You know what else was big? Her coaches’ messages weren’t degrading and demoralizing but rather confidence boosting and filled with encouraging words.
And she still remembers those conversations all these years later.
“I had one coach who was doing an evaluation at the end of the season who told me that the sky was the limit for what I wanted to do,” recalls Naeher. “And that definitely stuck with me, and I was 12 at the time. So to hear that coming from a coach at that young age kind of made my eyes get really big.”
BENEFITS OF PLAYING MULTIPLE SPORTS GROWING UP
“I think it helps to have a really broad range,” says Naeher, who played a variety of sports as a youngster. “Growing up I played a lot of basketball, too. I’ll have people comment that I’ll come out for a cross during a soccer game like I’m getting a rebound. So I think a lot of it just kind of translates over, especially the hand-eye coordination needed in basketball just really helped me with soccer.”
KEEPING YOUTH SPORTS IN PERSPECTIVE
“I think it’s really easy to get caught up looking ahead and looking weeks and years down the line and I think there’s definitely something to be said for having goals and things like that, but at the same time we get too focused on the end product,” she says. “I think we sometimes forget that you have to take it one game and one practice at a time, and one bad practice or one bad game isn’t going to ruin a chance you have in the future, just as well as having one good game isn’t going to all of a sudden help you achieve what you want to do. So I think the more that kids can stay in the moment and enjoy the experience along the way will really help them.”
COACHING CORNER: MAKING CONNECTIONS WITH PLAYERS
Naeher played for a lot of coaches throughout her childhood. She knows what works – and what young players crave.
“Coaches have to try their best to relate to the kids in some way,” she says. “I think some coaches too often are attempting to live vicariously through the team they are coaching because they had their shot and it didn’t pan out and now their competitiveness is coming out in a more negative than positive way. So if they can realize that they literally have the power to shape these kids’ lives and their opinions about the sport. It only takes unfortunately one bad experience with a coach to turn a kid off from a particular sport and that’s really unfortunate. But I think if these coaches can really truly grasp the power and responsibility that they have. Every kid is different. Everybody has to be treated the same to a certain extent so you’re not showing favoritism and things like that but at the same time you can’t talk to everybody the same way. Different people respond to different forms of motivation so just trying to understand the kids, understand the players that you have and how to get the most out of them.”
WORLD CUP CARRYOVER: INSPIRING TODAY’S YOUTH
“I think that now it’s our turn to kind of inspire the next generation of kids,” Naeher says. “And I just hope that maybe girls that were watching got that feeling of that could be them someday.”
COVER GIRL: EVERY MEMBER OF THE TEAM HAS HER OWN SPORTS ILLUSTRATED COVER HOLDING THE WORLD CUP TROPHY
“That’s really cool,” Naeher says. “That’s something in my wildest dreams I never thought was going to happen. That’s definitely pretty special.”
THE ESPYS, NEW YORK CITY PARADE, TAYLOR SWIFT CONCERT…
The U.S. team has been on a whirlwind tour since winning the World Cup: It captured the Best Team of the Year award at the ESPYs; was honored with an historic ticker-tape parade through New York City’s famed Canyon of Heroes; and appeared on stage during a Taylor Swift concert at MetLife Stadium.
“It definitely has been kind of a blur,” Naeher says. “They are all special in their own way. It’s just been a lot of really amazing moments.”
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