Each fall we start watching The Voice, a series that begins with blind auditions where contestants sing to convince one of four renowned singers to entertain the opportunity to become their mentor/coach.
From the moment these blind auditions start you can feel the amazement of the amateur singers when a chair is turned and they are recognized for their talent.
Each year we process through the VIPL Riptide U14-U18 Youth Soccer Trials where more than 160+ players will seek selection for a place on one of eight teams. The “Blind Audition” for the players starts with a series of training sessions where they hope to draw a coach’s attention. Once they’ve been selected, the mentoring process begins.
I am brought to tears on a regular basis as the show progresses and the number of singers is slowly reduced. Today, there are four singers left from 40. As the season winds on, coaches spend more time with singers, which deepens their relationship with one another.
Relationships are a huge part of any successful coach.
There have been many healthy, positive relationships for me in soccer, as a player, coach and technical director.
As a player, some of my first memories in the game come from playing with the Lansdowne Evening Optimists (1974 Victoria) coached by John Rudball (to this day, John makes an effort to stop by and say hello each summer when he and his wife visit Denman Island). The team wore royal blue polyester jerseys with two yellow stripes down one side, and matching polyester royal blue shorts and socks (also with two yellow stripes which circled the top of each sock when folded over). My first goalkeeper jersey was yellow polyester. My first pair of goalkeeper gloves were a soft cotton mix with green rubberized material for grip (the same material found on ping pong paddles). My first pair of boots were more plastic than leather. My teen years were spent playing for the Gorge Magpies (coaches Dunc McCaig and Ron McClure). This is where I would meet friends who I still see to this day. In fact, we played school soccer together and grew up both on and off the field.
When I think of my youth soccer coaches there is warmth, encouragement, positivity and motivation coming from all angles. Each of these people would not only support us on the field, they would remain a strong part of our lives through the years off the field - and that is what coaching is about. I learned early on in life the definitive role of the coach is the lasting impact you can have on people’s lives.
I write this listening to the final four sing for the opportunity to win the season and receive a recording contract. I enjoy the stories between the coaches and singers, how they enjoy being able to help students improve and learn about themselves. These artists take time out of their lives to help the next generation of singers become famous.
I’ve had many positive mentors through the years. I’ve also mentored hundreds of athletes, and helped develop some special coaches. There’ve been a select few athletes who I was able to mentor and develop deep and meaningful relationships with. Taryn Swiatek. Erin McLeod. Nicole Wright. Stephanie Labbe. Erin McNulty. Stacey VanBoxmeer. All of whom I was lucky enough to invest time working with as a part of the Canadian Women’s National Team Program.
Then there are my peers: Lewis Page, Bryan Rosenfeld, Stuart Neely, Ian Bridge, Even Pellerud and Ken Garraway.
Each and every one of these individuals has made a positive impact on my life, and will always contribute to the person I have become.
As this episode wears down, I am finding satisfaction in knowing full well that only one person will be crowned the ‘winner of season 11!’
Importantly, each of these final four candidates has grown and developed under the influence of their respective coach and accomplished more than enough on their individual journey to be considered a winner. The coaches push and pull the singers to make themselves more and more unique, pushing themselves to remain strong, confident and determined as they perform each and every week — knowing full well the audience selects who moves on each week in the competition.
Hard work is what it’s all about as a performer. As an athlete. I have always drawn reference to my travels all over the world as a player, coach or technician to that of a musical performer. Both are welcomed by one and all with open arms. One for the songs they may sing or play. Another for the simple fact that the game of soccer is global — it is appreciated by one and all the entire world over.
Shel Brodsgaard is the soccer development co-ordinator for the VIPL Riptide program