My son played organized soccer for the first time this fall.
I was the coach.
This is the story about how I was tricked into doing it, and why I’m forever grateful that I was.
– – –
I guess I was a little blind-sided by the question: “Would you like to coach Crash’s soccer team?”
It came via text message from a telephone number that I didn’t recognize at the time. It surprised me, because I had already indicated that I wasn’t interested in the job when we went through the registration process.
When I got to the part of the online sign-up form that inquired about coaching, I thought about it for 1 second.
“Do you want to coach your child’s soccer team?”
My reply text to inquiry No. 2 was a little more thought out and definite: “Not just no, but …”
Text: “We don’t have enough coaches. You’ll do great.”
Me: “No thanks.”
Me: “I played soccer for like 15 minutes when I was growing up. I’m not qualified.”
Text: “We’ll give you an assistant who has played before.”
Then I revealed a chink in my armor and asked: “When do you need to know by?”
I wish I could write, with pure confidence, that my decision to do it was altruistic – my son needed a soccer coach, and I was going to save the day.
That wasn’t the case, though.
It was a little touch of guilt – and the fact that I’ve never backed down from a challenge – that pushed me over the edge.
Me: “OK…dang it…I’ll do it!”
Text: “Sucker. I knew you would!”
– – –
Fast forward to our initial team meeting, which took place after our first practice…
Five sets of parents sat on metal bleachers with temperatures pushing 100 degrees. They had just watched me pretend to be a soccer coach for an hour.
The six players on the Lions – our prideful team name chosen by my 4-year-old son – ran around the soccer field like wild banshees. They were acting like they hadn’t just practiced for 60 minutes.
I stood in front of the parents sweating and nervous, trying to block out the chatter coming from the 4 and 5 year olds running wild behind me.
“I’ve never played soccer like that before…”
“Are all the practices going to be like this…”
“Is he really our coach…”
I took a deep breath and focused on the parents.
“I appreciate you guys letting me coach your kiddos…”
I KNEW they could see right through me. They had just sat and watched me herd cats for an hour, and they were thinking the exact same thing the players were saying out loud.
So, I decided that brutal honesty was the best game plan.
“I’m not a soccer coach. I only played soccer for a couple of years when I was growing up. I stopped playing in the sixth grade.”
The initial response was wide eyes and one long deliberate breath from every single parent. (I’ve never witnessed an actual train wreck, but I’m thinking this is a common reaction from the on-lookers.)
“I was a football coach for 4 years…”
A couple of the parents actually did the slow blink and dropped their heads. I quickly made each one of them a promise.
“I will come to practice organized, ready and excited every week…I’ll try to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for your child…I’ll be fair… I’ll treat each of your kids like my own – with love and respect.
“My No. 1 goal is for your son or daughter to have fun – if they get a little better at soccer and we win some games, it will be icing on the cake.
“If any of you have tips or suggestions for me, I’m all ears. When they handed me my whistle and clip board, I checked my ego at the door…
Confession: I felt good about my preseason pep-talk – especially after I introduced my assistant coach and explained that he actually played soccer through high school.
– – –
Fast forward to the middle of the season…
We weren’t very good, but the kids were allegedly having fun.
Confession: After every practice, all I wanted was an adult beverage.
I tried to stay positive, constantly reminding myself that it really wasn’t that awful.
Again, our No. 1 objective was to have fun, and I would ask my son after every game if we accomplished that goal.
Me: “I know we lost by 12 goals, but did you have fun?”
The Boy: “Yes, sir.”
Me: “You do know it’s A LOT more fun when you win, right?”
The Boy: “I’ll take your word for it, Dad.”
I will say this…we were getting better. By the fourth and fifth game, we were starting to be competitive, and after I bribed my players with candy if they scored a goal, we started winning games.
Needless to say, I was having a lot more fun as the coach when we weren’t getting embarrassed.
I also started having a lot more fun as a DAD!
In game No. 6 of the season, Crash Greer Myers – my pride…my joy…my first-born child – scored the first goal of his short soccer career.
I can whole-heartedly say that it was one of the proudest moments of my life.
I know…I know…it was just a U-6 youth soccer game and there wasn’t a goalie, but when that ball hit the back of that tiny net, it was magical.
The Boy immediately turned around searching for my validation.
He found it.
When our eyes locked, and I saw the pure joy and excitement on his face, fatherhood finally started to make sense. Right then and there, it wasn’t about me anymore – I realized that it was about the success of my children.
He tried to play it cool, but he was overjoyed.
And so was I.
He wanted to score so badly, and he finally did it. I was so happy for him.
I ran up to him (coaches are allowed to be on the field during U-6 games), I picked him up and threw him the air.
“I scored, daddy! I scored, daddy!”
“I know you did, brother! I’m so proud of you.”
As I set him back down on the ground, my face began to hurt from smiling so much.
I squatted down, looked him in the eye and told him again, “I’m really proud of you, Crash.”
He smiled and said with a twinkle in his eye: “Does this mean I get a Ring Pop, Dad?”
– – –
The random text message I received prior to the season – inquiring about my interest in coaching – was from one of my buddies on the Fire Department.
Every time I’d see him around town or at the station, I would offer a sarcastic “thanks.”
Now that the season is over, I’d like to offer my sincere appreciation to my buddy for sending that text and asking me to coach. The entire experience was wonderfully great.