In between crying, eating and singing, there’s soccer to coach

Soccer is much harder than I thought. Not the playing, I mean, but the coaching part. The part where you try to get a group of 4-year-old girls to just stand there on the field, without singing, or picking out the grass, or complimenting a teammate’s hair braid, and instead listen to you, the coach, for a period exceeding seven seconds. A 4-year-old girl’s attention span rivals that of a hummingbird just back from Starbucks.

When I volunteered to coach Marilee’s soccer team, I figured it’d be similar to the football I remember from junior high. I imagined a disciplined practice, where the girls would look up at me attentively, taking in my wisdom, then executing the drills with precision. Instead I got a team where practice would be stopped dead in its tracks by a passing airplane.

But distraction was far down on my list of worries. One girl broke down in tears just before practice. “I want my Mommy. I want my Mommy,” she cried repeatedly. “I want to go home and I want my Mommy.”

You and me both, kid.

I tried to make practices a learning experience. And they were. For me. I learned from Olivia, for example, that we’re not supposed to say the word “heck,” which made me really glad I didn’t say the word I had originally intended. Another girl became upset when we wouldn’t use her soccer ball. I’m not talking about a sad-faced “Awwww” upset. I mean a full, blown-out, road rage, terror alert level “Red” anger. If she were at all physically capable of killing me, I’m confident I would not be writing this today.

The games themselves were an adventure. Once a girl played most of the third quarter while eating crackers.

Another time, our team, the “Rage,” was playing our arch-rivals, the “Raptors.” (As a side note, the Rage vs. Raptors is a fierce, intense rivalry going back all the way to late August).

Anyway, at one point during the game, I had a feeling that the Raptors were going to score. I had this feeling because, unlike us, they actually had players on the field.

One of our girls had walked off the field to go be with her daddy (“I’m tired,” she said), while on the opposite end of the field, Marilee and a teammate just stood there, engaged in an intense discussion over which player’s jersey number was higher. “I’m number 19,” Marilee said, “That’s waaaay much bigger than 8.”

There were times, however, when you could see marked improvement — when the girls genuinely focused on improving their skills. Kiera, for example, sprinted towards me before the start of our second practice:

KIERA: I’ve been practicing!

ME: Great! Show me what you’ve got.

She proceeded to recite our team cheer.

So we weren’t the best team in terms of athletic ability, but I think we lead the league in both cheer volume and in goals scored by players eating crackers.

I’ll even reluctantly admit that my daughter is not going to be the next (Editor: please insert the name of a good female soccer player here). I figured as much when she informed me it wasn’t nice to “steal” the ball from the other team.

But at least she followed directions. Only because she realizes I have the power to both spank and withhold ice cream. Some of the other girls, however, were ... how do I say this ... not fully respectful of authority.

One true game-time example:

ME: “Come on in. You’re playing.”

PLAYER: “No thanks. I’m eating.”

This is not something you typically hear during, say, the Army-Navy football game.

All in all, coaching the Rage was a fun experience, even if we weren’t very successful. They don’t really keep score at this age, but out of six games, we lost 4 and won 2.

And 4 is waaaay much bigger than 2.

Reach Steve at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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