Alongside the return of school is the return of the soccer season and the resumption of my position as a coach. Yes, I am a soccer coach who is responsible for helping to teach, mold and shape young men.
Each week we gather for a short practice in which we discuss the proper way to play soccer. First we laugh at all of the crazy foreigners who have a fit of apoplexy at any comment that does not praise soccer. During the laughter we imitate and mock their funny antics and accents.
Once this is completed we spend several moments practicing how to be a soccer hooligan. This includes teaching the lads how to pound a beer, set fire to automobiles, loot, pillage and run wild.
Eventually we tire of this and spend the next few moments discussing why the NFL is a superior sport and the reasons why it is called Football. Not to mention the time spent educating the kids about how to hold a proper tailgate party.
Ok, so maybe we don’t do any of the above. Maybe, just maybe we spend time talking about the value of playing as a team and learning how many can be stronger than one. Maybe just maybe they get to listen to me speak about the main reason we play, to have fun.
They are only eight years-old.
Later on in the week we’ll play a real game and see if anyone remembers what they learned in practice. With any luck they’ll stay involved in the game and have a good time. They might even have fun.
Of course I’ll have an encounter or two with a parent who thinks that they know how to do it better. I’ll tell them to “put up or shut up,” there is always space for them to coach next season. At least one time during the season the discussion will move from civility into promises of physical contact.
Those discussions are always great. I really enjoy telling a father that he should ask his son to come watch me kick his sorry butt up and down the field. They may even learn how to tear a man’s arm off at the shoulder and the proper technique for using the severed arm as a club.
But then again we just might avoid this discussion. It is always possible that the parents listened to my instructions that at eight-years-old all I am interested in is that the kids have fun. They’ll learn how to play and they’ll get an education about teamwork, but this is not the place in which they’ll earn a scholarship. No scouts are watching. The MLS isn’t going to come calling.
If all goes well the team will win more games than it loses, the kids will learn a thing or two and make a new friend. We shall see what happens.
For now we’ll watch and if anyone asks, you can call me coach.