One of the many things she used to say was “If ‘ifs’ and ‘ands’ were pots and pans, we’d have no need for tinkers.” It didn’t make a lot of sense to me as a kid but it has been a recurring thought for me since our season ended last week. The conclusion of a season throws all coaches and players into spiral of reflection which can lead to a number of feelings ranging from joy to satisfaction to indifference or regret and inevitably the evaluative process can throw up innumerable “what ifs” and “if onlys”.
If only the referee had not awarded a sudden-death overtime penalty against one of our players for an inadvertent handball against Brown we might have come out of the game with a tie and maintained our challenge for the Ivy title; if only the ensuing kick had been one inch to the right our keeper Bobby Thalman might have gotten even more of his hand to the ball and saved it.
What if we had made a better tactical substitution the week before, or employed different tactics the week before that? What if we had played this player instead of that one or had played the rookie midfielder instead of the senior? If only we had chosen to play with the wind behind us in the first half instead of the second or if only we had remembered to pick up the big man on the long throw-in. What if the last second shot had gone in against UConn with the score tied 0-0? And so It goes, interminably on and on.
As my grandmother was pointing out all those years ago, life is full of abundant ‘ifs’ and ‘ands’ and that they are, certainly in the soccer coaching context, often the precursors to excuses, justification and rose-colored reflection.
In reality most people, players, coaches and teams get what they earn in either a positive or negative sense. If we won we did enough to earn it; if we lost we earned it and if we tied we probably earned that too. If we controlled everything we had control over to the best of our abilities then we can feel that we earned the outcome whatever it is. That was most certainly the case for us this fall; we were pretty good at times and managed to win; other times we were pretty good and lost. There were times when we played poorly and won and times when we felt we had done enough to win but ended up in a tie. And yes, there were times when we played poorly and earned ourselves a loss as well.
If, in my reflection on the season I am tempted to think ‘if only’, I have learned to expect a spectral clip around the ear from the spirit of my grandmother and am reminded to use the past as knowledge and to think about the optimistic, controllable future.
So as the curtain closes on our 2011 season, our 8-7-2 record is an indicator of acceptable and needed progress and a fair reflection of who and what we are as a team. There is enough reason for somewhat of a spring in our step as we look ahead, but we also have a realistic view of our shortcomings and will embrace the opportunity to get better with a mindset and outlook that does not contribute to the scarcity of tinkers!