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Guilt. If I’m perfectly honest, that’s how my adventure in coaching started. But despite somewhat ugly beginnings, some things do turn out beautifully.
This summer, my 4-year-old son was wild about playing soccer. With gusto, we registered with a local youth league, but it turned out more volunteer coaches were needed. To be turned away would have broken his heart — true for most young athletes, I’m sure.
Plus, I’d just been a part of a conversation at work about parents viewing extra-curricular activities as free babysitting. Some do that and it’s ridiculous.
So, just like that, I was a soccer coach.
I’m not athletic. I didn’t even own a pair of sneakers. And I’d never played soccer. I didn’t know much about the sport other than what I learned from a former All-American officemate during the 2010 World Cup and most of that was about vuvuzelas.
Paranoia set in. I could not give these 4- and 5-year-olds the expertise they deserved, I thought. That, too, turned out to be ridiculous. With help from experienced coaches, some seasoned soccer parents and websites that include videos of drills, everything turned out just fine.
Monday, the team practiced for the last time this season. The last games are this weekend.
No one is afraid of the ball anymore, they’ve learned about the game and they’ve become friends.
I hope, years from now, my son and all the other players will remember something about the season. There certainly have been some memorable moments.
Some are funny, like when all activity halted when two helicopters flew over the field. Some are funny, but only after you know no one is hurt, like when a player froze on the field and pulled his shirt over his head or got himself tangled in the net and had to be pulled out of it.
Some are sweet, like when a player looked at me as serious as a presidential address and said, “Congratulations, we played fair and square.” Or when a 30-pound 4-year-old stopped at mid-field to give a double thumbs up, purse his lips and bob his head like a professional athlete celebrating.
And some moments are just, well, awesome. There’s the wide-eyed, open-mouth smile of a kid who just scored his first goal. And there’s the kid who says “I want to go back in,” at the end of every quarter.
Whatever these little guys recall, I hope the memories will trigger smiles.
So, I’m thankful to be an accidental coach, so to speak. I wish it had been enthusiasm or some other noble thing that started it. It was guilt over my own kid, yes, but guilt led to an unmatched mother-son experience and coming to adore six other children.
As a bonus, I think I’m healthier now, too. Racing the boys across the field doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as it did in September.
Sarah Berkshire can be reached at (270) 505-1745 or email@example.com.