This week on the #AskASoccerPro Show we had two great guests join us, Brooklynn and Mark Sieverkropp! Brooklynn and Mark came on the show for a very special father-daughter episode. I’m very pleased to share our interview with you.
If you'd like to listen to the interview:
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*Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Quincy Amarikwa: What’s going on Mark? How are you doing Brooklynn? I see that you’ve got on your USA jersey! Is that your favorite player?
Brooklynn Sieverkropp: Yes, Alex Morgan.
QA: Is that your favorite player?
BS: Of the girls.
QA: So, who’s your favorite guy player?
BS: [laughing] I don’t want you to be offended, but Nicolas Lodeiro.
QA: Oh, Lodeiro! Seattle Sounders, huh? I’ll only be a little offended. [laughing]
Mark Sieverkropp: I will say, before we came on the live she was saying, “oh, now I have to get an Amarikwa jersey!”
QA: So, before you called in, I was sharing a bit of my experience, and I just went through the exact same experience of not making my team, not getting called back. So, I think it’s a great opportunity for us to kind of talk through your experience and what it’s been like for you. I know there are a lot of players joining the live and they will be really happy to hear you share this story.
I wanted to start with you Mark, so we can have a little bit on context here and I know we have spoken a bit before the call about the perspective of being a parent and how difficult that can be through this process. I was hoping we could share ways in which we can help other parents through this overall process too. Would you be able to give us a little bit of background on you and Brooklynn? Are you her coach or trainer and how long have you been coaching?
MS: So, we live in a tiny town in the middle of Washington, which is why we’re Sounders fans, but you know, for us, it’s really hard to play competitive soccer. It’s a lot of travel and there aren’t really any competitive teams around. I played soccer while I was growing up. I ref soccer, I coach soccer. I started coaching at 16, so, shoot, that’s almost 20 years.
From the time Brooklynn was five, I’ve been her coach. You know people always say, “coach’s kid, this, coach’s kid that.” Yeah, there’s a little bit of that but really, she’s always wanted to play. Like, she’s always wanted to go outside and play and kick the ball around. So we got to the point now where on her rec team, we’re actually combining a couple of teams and going to go competitive this year. But so far, she’s the best player, one of the best. On any given day she can be the best player on either team. This last year we finally learned of the state elite player development team, and she went and tried out for that. That’s kind of where this conversation came from, her trial. I’ve coached her all the way through, and I coach her little brother. I ref at the high school level too.
We just love soccer. We love watching it, we love going to games, we love being around it.
QA: That’s cool because we have a lot of people in our community who talk about being in a smaller market where there isn’t a lot of competitive soccer. It’s something they struggle with and they reach out asking how they develop and become more competitive when they don’t have access to as much competition. So, Brooklynn, how did you get into soccer and what is your relationship like with your dad?
BS: I got into soccer because of him. He put in me in the micro at five and ever since I’ve loved it. I don’t want to stop playing.
QA: What’s your position and why are you drawn to it? What do you really love about the game?
BS: I like to score goals, I love scoring goals, even though I don’t celebrate.
QA: Oh, so you’re not someone who celebrates?
BS: I don’t think there’s a lot of people to celebrate in front of, so I just shrug back.
QA: I like that. Straight to business.
BS: I play center mid.
QA: Ah, okay! So, you like scoring goals, what do you feel makes you a good soccer player?
BS: I think I’m good because I know where a good pass is. So, if I see somebody, I’ll try passing to them and they can score from that opportunity. That’s why I think I’m good.
QA: That’s good! So, today’s theme is self-awareness, right? And in order to have vision on the field, you have to be self-aware. Do you feel that’s a strong focal point of your game?
QA: Thank you for sharing how you’ve gotten into soccer and where you’re at. I wanted to transition now into your recent experience. I know it’s really difficult for you right now, not making the team for the first time. So, when you were trying out for the team, where was your mindset before you went to the trial? What was the experience like when you were going through it? And, where are you now? I think a lot of players either have had the same experience as you or will have the experience at some point in the future.
BS: I was very nervous. I was very nervous and hoped that I would make it.
QA: What did you feel your chances of making it were when you were going into this trial?
BS: I thought pretty high. I thought I could make it.
QA: What made you think that? Were you really confident because your dad said you’re one of the best players at your level? What did you feel when you were there? Walk me through your experience?
BS: I was a little scared because I don’t play competitive and they all did. And they were a little better than me. They had more training and had played longer.
QA: What were they better at specifically?
BS: Some of them were really good at shooting and powerful kicks from the side. They could shoot really far from the side and the corner.
QA: And what made you nervous?
BS: To me, the nervous feeling was because I’ve never tried out for a competitive team. Like, I always signed up for soccer and was on the team.
QA: Once you saw these other players and they were maybe a little better, what did that make you feel?
BS: It kind of motivated me, made me try harder, it made me try my best. But I was also really scared and thought I couldn’t do it at the same time.
QA: I understand these are tough questions and I really appreciate that you are thinking about them and giving real honest feedback. This is going to be really helpful to a lot of kids who are listening to this, and their parents too. What happened after the trial was over? Between the time you finished the trial and then were riding home, how did you feel? What was your mindset?
BS: I thought I did pretty good and I was excited to see when it was going to be posted who made the team. But then, I didn’t make the team and I was mad. I didn’t want to trial ever again.
QA: That’s a feeling that everyone goes through, it’s completely normal. I think you even heard me a little bit ago talking about how I did all this work, worked my butt off, performed really well, and did all these things during my time here at DC. Then you know, you have the meeting and they let you know, “we’re not bringing you back.” So, everyone goes through that process of anger and disappointment. What we’re talking about really is how do you work through that process more quickly so you can see the positives and the information that they’re sharing with you that can be used to better yourself moving forward. How long did it take you to find out who made the team?
BS: Two weeks.
QA: Okay, in those two weeks, were you doing anything differently after you learned from visiting the trial?
BS: they gave me some things that they thought I could have done better, and I tried talking to my dad about what I should do to help me to do the things he said I needed to work on. I had to get better at defense, like once I lose the ball go back and get it.
QA: Did you agree with the assessment they gave you after the trial?
BS: I don’t know.
QA: This is good. We’re talking about how we get through this and figure out what we want to improve for the next time we go to a trial. Self-awareness is a skillset, just like you need endurance to run for a full ninety-minute game. So just as important as what you do during the trial is what you do afterward. I’m glad you’re thinking about this because a lot of players don’t.
So, Mark, maybe I want you to chime in a little bit here and let me know what your initial assessment and takeaways were from what the coaches shared with her after her trial.
MS: There were a couple of things that they were right, and I agree with them. But the challenge for me as a parent and maybe even as a coach was some of the things that they were saying, ‘hey you’re not doing this,’ was because of the level of play she is at and not that she was doing something wrong. One of them said, ‘if you’re going to be center mid you need to demand the ball more.’ Well, at the level she was at, if you play that way because not all of them are competitive, it’s easy for your teammates to start to say, ‘you’re a ball hog, you just always want the ball.’ So, while these coaches were right, at the same time it’s something I struggle with. How do I teach her to do that when it causes all sorts of troubles within the team, with certain teammates, and those types of things? But it was good, and I mean, that was one of the things that when we got the list, I made sure to email the coach and say, ‘hey, she didn’t make it, what can she do? What did you see, what didn’t you see? Because she really wants to do this, and I thought she looked really good.’
It’s interesting you mentioned putting players in a box, and I think that’s partly what happened because they asked her what position do you play and she said center mid. You know, maybe if she would have been playing on the wing or something, she would have made the team. I don’t know, but I think they kind of put her in that box because of the position she said she played, and they just analyzed her on that.
QA: That’s a couple different pieces so let’s break it down a little bit. I know this is probably very difficult for parents to understand what to do and how to attack it right. So first really is what you had pointed out, they weren’t wrong in their assessment, but she isn’t doing anything wrong because the level she’s at doesn’t demand or require that. I it’s is extremely important for parents to figure out, are they doing this for fun or to compete? What I believe is important is for kids to play for fun until they decide they want to compete. I think the way you’re approaching it is the best way to go. Then when they say I want to increase my level, I want to challenge myself, I want to do better; I think that’s the first time where kids are going to realize, ‘oh, this is a different world with a different dynamic, and though I played this game for fun, once it becomes competitive you’re going to have to do things that aren’t fun to remain competitive.’ Can you handle people calling you a ball hog and still do what you know you need to do to get better over time?
It’s important to mindful of this when transitioning into the second part of what you’re discussing, being put in a box. When you’re making your way up to the next level, that fact that your experience is that of a rec player is not viewed as a positive, so even if you might be good enough, understanding how you’re viewed at the competitive level is just as important, if not more important, than how good you are. When a coach is assessing you, he is making decisions really quickly based on his biases and assumptions. When he hears you’re a rec player, that immediately tells him that you’re not good enough, whether that’s true or not.
So, we’re talking strategically now. Going into these situations, if your kid is wanting to make that jump, it’s better not to say they’ve played rec. If you can avoid saying that because it’s already making it harder on you. I’m not viewed as a smart player, only an athletic one. That pigeonholes you into not being able to do certain things on the field.
As a parent, what did you feel has been the most difficult for you through this process?
MS: I mean, to be completely honest, being your kid’s coach is a different beast. Because, you know, she does really well most of the time listening to me, but sometimes it’s like, ‘shut up dad. I don’t want to hear any more.’ You know, she gets annoyed. It’s one of those things where it’s hard to balance. And you know, I expect more out of her because I know what she can do. So, that was the challenge.
I think the other thing for me is going to that level and being there with her and seeing her confidence get shaken really quickly, and it wasn’t during the trial. It was immediately when she was talking to these girls and they’re like, ‘oh where do you play, what clubs?’ And she’s like, ‘I just play rec.’ Hearing what you’re saying now, there’s a better way I could have coached her, and told her, ‘no, this is what you say, this is is how you present yourself.’ Because immediately, it was like the minute she said that, they go, ‘oh, you just play rec.’ and I could see in her facial expressions and her body language that all of a sudden she’s thinking, ‘oh no, I’m not good enough, I can’t do this.’
Whereas when I watched her playing, she was every bit as good as most of those girls. I mean, objectively I would say she was in the top 30%. I know there’s politics and everything, and there were a lot of girls there who were already on the team and just ‘retrying out.’ I know that makes it more difficult coming in and those types of things, but that’s tough as a parent.
Because I coach, I’m not going to throw a fit and say, ‘well she should be on there!’ Because I get it, and maybe they’ve got two kids in that position, maybe there’s a couple things they really do need and she doesn’t have them, and that’s okay. But it’s tough, and the hardest part was when she didn’t make the team, trying to help her understand that when I’m objectively watching that she didn’t do a bad job and she played her best, that there were several things I thought she did better than a lot of the other girls. I think that’s good for her because that’s the first time she’s ever played soccer for somebody besides dad, and that’s a good experience having to learn to deal with somebody else’s coaching style and the way they interact.
QA: I agree as well. To Brooklynn, what do you feel has been the most difficult thing for you through this process in learning? Why did you believe you were never going to be good enough?
BS: The more I do this, there are going to be more and more club people. And like my dad said, when they ask you what club you play for and you say you don’t play for a club, it just kind of shows that people think people who don’t play for clubs aren’t good enough.
QA: And maybe that’s true, you aren’t good enough right now, or maybe it’s not. But, if you aren’t good enough, you’re going to learn and get better, even if you don’t play for a club, right? So when I’m talking in terms of developing the MLS mindset, it’s that long term winner’s mindset, where we look at every negative thing that someone has to say about us even if it’s true, and we use that as fuel to get better.
So, Brooklynn, you decided that you never wanted to do this again, do you still feel that way?
BS: Not really.
QA: Nice. Are you able to kind of look at this as a good thing now? What’s the reason you’re going to try again?
BS: I look at it as a good thing [not making the team]. It’s a way I could have learned and I’m looking forward to the next trial. I know I’m going to play competitive this coming year so I’m going to have a lot more opportunities to practice and next time I’ll know what to expect.
QA: I like that! That’s a long-term winner’s mindset! The difficult times and the negative times are the times where you should get excited and happy because that means you get to grow and learn. You have a great mentality towards this and if you keep that mentality and keep working, you’ll be able to play at a competitive level!Maybe in a couple of months, we could have you on the show again to show how you’ve progressed? Thank you for joining in and we’re looking forward to having you both on the show again in the future!