Sunday, March 22, 2009

Soccer Mom

I was thrilled when all three of the kids said they wanted to play soccer this spring. We’ve been out of gymnastics for over a year (not impressed with the quality of the program for Abby’s age group) and karate for about 8 months (Elliott just didn’t want to go back after football was over L) and Ben is finally eligible to play and coordinated enough not to break a bone, so I signed everyone up. My hand only shook a little as I wrote the triple digit check for the enrollment fees, and when we got home I immediately went to the web sites looking for cheap kids soccer stuff.
Oh, and I signed up to coach Ben’s team.
Well, not intentionally, of course. I know how ridiculous I look trying to do anything athletic, and how little I know about soccer. I signed up to be a Parent Helper, which I thought meant cheerleader. Unfortunately no one else signed up to do anything, which I totally understand, so the little check mark I made by Parent Helper kind of got ignored. I can appreciate the situation the coordinators found themselves in – they had paperwork on someone, why not just make her the coach? They subscribe to my favorite axiom, which is that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.
I realized, after a little self-examination and some desperate questions to the coordinator, that this would be okay. There are two other boys and two little girls on Ben’s team, and three are first time players. At this age, they mostly just kick the ball up and down the field and try to avoid running into each other… or not. It’s more comical than competitive, and more fun for everyone.
I had to get approved by the state Youth Soccer Association first, and that involved a questionnaire online, a criminal background check, a couple of coaches’ meetings and an evening clinic.
There were several moms and lots of dads at the clinic, more than 50 of us crammed into a small conference room one evening, and to my surprise the State Soccer Coach (yes, that’s his real title) had a giant bag of soccer balls and cones and yellow jerseys by the front table. Surely this wasn’t going to be a hand’s-on type thing, was it? I can kick the ball around with my kids but with a whole bunch of coaches watching my fat jiggle… wow, I don’t know about that. Plus I’d been drinking coffee all day and I wasn’t really PrepAreD to do any hopping or jumping or even reacting quickly (if you’ve had more than one child and know what Kegels are, you know what I’m talking about…). But this is only a three hour clinic and there are only 8 or 9 balls in the bag so perhaps there are plenty of volunteers for me to avoid any activity. I should have sat in the middle in the back (I didn’t because of the whole coffee thing… that’ll teach me.)
So Mr. State Coach bullies us through What Not to Do with Soccer Players - don’t make them run laps, don’t make them stand in line - and finally got to What To Do with Soccer Players (let them learn by playing the game). He’s a funny guy but I’m sure he was a drill sergeant, perhaps recently retired. He had a hard time not saying “what the hell” and an equally hard time substituting ‘freakin’ for the other f word. He marched around the front of the room, charging towards the front row when there was a point to be made.

“What do kids, 5 6 7 8 9 10 year old kids, what do kids want to do? Why do they come to soccer practice? To do freakin’ PE stuff? They don’t like the PE teacher for a reason! Why? Why? Because the stuff they do is freakin’ boring! Now I’m not coming down on PE teachers, but you coaches, you have a chance to do something fun! Not the freakin’ PE stuff, don’t make ‘em do that. You have a chance to help them play soccer! And they learn to play soccer how? How? How do you learn how to do something? How do you learn something new? Can you learn how to play basketball by watching a freakin’ video? No! You have to have the ball in your hands! You have to be on the court! You have to bounce it and run with it and shoot it through the hoop! So how do kids learn soccer? By playing soccer!”

Then he gave us a 5-minute break. When I came back (I wasn’t the only one racing to the bathroom but I was closest) he was instructing everyone to move the chairs against the outside walls. Some of the younger dads were bouncing a little like they really wanted to do something other than listen to Billy Mays Amazing Soccer Instruct-o-matic, and sure enough, the bag of balls got dumped on the floor. He had instant volunteers as those energetic few souls practically dove for the balls. I was just not that eager to show off that I can indeed stop the ball without falling over, so I stood off to the side and watched. They played Simon Says and some other games while dribbling and passing, and I got some great ideas for things to do with my team, so it was a productive workshop, and I didn’t have to kick the ball in front of other people even once.

Until practice a week later. That night I was PrepAreD, if you know what I mean, and we actually had a good time. The kids are really well behaved, one of the moms agreed to be my assistant coach (bless you, Kandice!), and the parents treat me like I know what I’m doing, so things are great.

Our first games were yesterday, and all three kids’ teams won. I think soccer may be the game for us – we’re off to a great start, anyway. We were at the park from 12:15 until 4:45 yesterday. I remembered snacks, water bottles, change of shoes, layered clothing, lawn chairs, and the camera. I forgot batteries and sunscreen, but really we all needed the vitamin D and the camera held out. Here’s the pictures – enjoy! J And think of us every Saturday until May 9th, lugging our stuff to the field. I promise to remember sunscreen.


Susan Raihala said...

You are DA MOM and I bow to your superiority! Soccer coach, wow!

I'm not-so-secretly thrilled that my boys are not really into sports. Jack takes gymnastics (noncompetitive) once a week and loves it. Nick may or may not have a swimmer or karate kid hiding in him. Both my boys are just too into playing to play sports, KWIM?

I will say I am hugely proud of my eldest because at church today, he didn't want to go to Sunday school; he wanted to go to service with me. Then, during the greeting, instead of staying seated and acting like a 9yo kid surrounded by adults he doesn't know, he walked up to an older woman, said, "Good morning; I'm Nick," and stuck out his hand. Then repeated with another woman he didn't know. I didn't prompt or anything. Oh, I'm so proud!!!

Sorry, I just had to brag!

Anonymous said...

I am not to sad that neither child wants to play soccer this year:)) I know what it is like dragging things to the field and spending at least 1/2 a day there. I bet you are a fun coach!! It would have been fun being a fly on the wall at your instructo-matic meeting...LOL!!

Jennifer said...

Oh man ... what a clinic that must have been. Wow. It does sound like you're having fun though, and I'm glad to hear everyone won!!