No matter what we do, what we do matters.
Meet Dan Karrow. Dan is a Youth Soccer Coach with Roadrunners Soccer Club in Downers Grove, IL. As a soccer Mom, I can appreciate the art and philosophy that goes into coaching kids in youth sports. Dan’s love of both the game and coaching are evident in his work on and off the field.
G: How did you get involved with soccer and coaching?
D: I played soccer my whole life. I was four when I started playing and it was the only sport I really cared about. I played all the way through college. At one point in college I thought I was going to be a history teacher. I was asked to be a grad assistant coach on my college team after graduation to get my Master’s Degree and teach, but I fell in love with coaching. It’s such a unique platform to interact with people.
G: What do you love most about coaching?
D: Well for one I just love the game. I also think that gratitude is really important, and so a big part of life for me is taking advantage of the gifts that you have been given, and I love coaching. I wanted to be the best coach that I can be so that I can use this platform to help the kids learn to be the best that they can be and to develop their gifts and talents in ways that they can transfer to other areas in their life.
G: I have always had the sense that you coach the kids in a way that what happens on the field is supposed to transcend soccer and be skills that they can use for life. What are some of these skills you hope they are building on under your leadership?
D: I want the kids to learn to embrace taking risks. To be okay with being themselves. They don’t all have to play in a certain way, so I want them to learn what their own unique strengths are and to develop those. I believe that we become what we think about. So many people go through life where they just react, and I want them to learn to work towards and create a plan for what they really want in life. I think that soccer is great because it’s a team sport, so it’s recognizing that you are playing for something bigger. I want the kids to learn that selfishness is not going to make you better or your team better. When you put someone else first, they will do the same for you, and now everyone is getting better.
G: Those are great lessons that show the impact that it can have on kids to be coached in this way. Can you imagine how powerful it can be if we raised kids with this mindset?
D: Yes, I think sometimes we get caught up in measuring success, but there are so many different ways of being successful. Sure grades, goals and wins are measures of success. But some kids are natural leaders. Some are emotionally strong. I like to get the kids thinking of ways they can contribute to the team.
G: Kids are being raised now to see the glory, the money and the fame behind pro sports, and the real love of the game or the life lessons in sports can get lost not only for kids, but for parents too. It can pretty quickly get to be all about winning.
D: Yes. When they lose, the kids are learning about setbacks. And as a parent it’s tough. Parents want the best for their kids, and I see it with my own son. Being part of a successful team is part of that, but part of the challenge for me as a coach is to balance that success versus development and how best to do that. A very small percentage will go on to be professionals, and we have to keep that in mind. So what are these kids really getting out of playing a sport? I want to give any players that have that potential a pathway to make it there, but it’s a small percentage so it’s really about the bigger picture.
G: What do you see as being the challenges of coaching at the youth level, particularly when it comes to kids and parents who want to see their kids on successful teams?
D: I think that a big part of it is about education. If we want to allow kids to develop and be successful, they have to be allowed to learn from their mistakes. Of course parents don’t want to see their kids fail, but it’s okay for kids to fail and to make mistakes. It’s a big part of their learning. That’s why I like for them to learn to take risks. As a coach, I can talk to kids about that. I also want to reinforce a long-term vision for parents that it’s important for kids to continue to enjoy playing. As time goes on, the competition gets tougher, and if kids don’t love it, they won’t want to play. As a college coach, we recruited some All-Americans that were burned out, and it was the kids that weren’t as well-known but loved the game that did better at the end of the four years. If a player stops playing, the question shouldn’t be about their commitment level, but for us coaches to ask what we are doing wrong for kids to not want to keep playing. Coaches sometimes need to let go of their egos about winning and allow for some part of it to be about the kids having fun.
G: You coach all ages. And you have coached from youth teams all the way up to the college level. What are the differences there?
D: Yes. I started at the college level, and I believe it made me a better coach. Once they were at that level of play, they were pretty developed and it was a different way of coaching. Then when you go down to the youth level, you really see the power of shaping habits.
G: What are some of the things you love about coaching with the club you are with now?
D: The staff is great. Everyone is really knowledgeable about the game, and everyone really does care about the players and their development. I think that we do a lot to help players develop at all levels.
G: How would you sum up your coaching philosophy?
D: If you are comfortable, you are not getting better. It’s a challenge for kids to learn that it’s through failure that they improve. As a coach, I just encourage the kids to be the best they can be and not compare themselves to anyone else.
G: Being a “Boy Mom” and being married to someone who loves and played soccer, I have learned to appreciate the sport of soccer, known around the world as “The Beautiful Game”. What is it about the game that you feel most passionate about?
D: Well it’s the world’s sport, so you can talk to anyone from another country and you have something in common. I love the fact that it is a good combination of teamwork and individual skill. As a parent, it’s great sport for kids to learn about fitness. As a coach, it’s all of the things that you can work on that transcend the sport. It’s a player sport, so the players need to learn to make decisions on the field for themselves. A team that is well organized that is not as good as the other team can score and win, so anything can happen. It’s the ultimate underdog story, so it’s exciting.
G: Who are you rooting for in the world cup?
D: Well the US is out! Italy is out. So I guess Germany?
For more information about Roadrunners Soccer, visit roadrunnersc.com. Teams forming now for Fall Programs.