Friday, September 12, 2008

Soccer Coach? But I Hardly Know Him!

Upon the birth of my first child, I knew two things were my destiny:

  1. I would be one of those father's who threatened (and, when needed, performed) bodily harm upon any boy who broke his little girl's heart; and,

  2. I would coach youth sports.

The first destiny is not yet fulfilled (but I'm watching you closely, curly haired, mouth-breather in the third row of homeroom). The second happened earlier this week when I became head wrangler of a herd of 7- and 8-year-old girl soccer players.

I originally volunteered to be an assistant. You know, the guy who always has a needle for the ball pump and a chemical ice bag for a bruised shin. When you need a supporting cast, I'm your Lou Grant, Rhoda Morgenstern and Phyllis Lindestrom -- all in one. But when you give me my own show … well, you tend to wish I had stayed in the newsroom with Murray and Ted.

But I got a frantic e-mail from the league saying they were desperately short of head coaches and would I, pretty please, do it. I hesitated for bit because I always envisioned coaching my children in a sport I actually know something about. Like baseball. Or beer pong.

Then I thought back to Thing 1's last coach. Her wisdom in the sport boiled down to screaming "kick it the other way" for 48 minutes every Saturday morning. The team scored two goals in eight games.

My mission accepted, I immersed myself in every book with variations of the words "youth, " "soccer" and "coaching" in the title providing those words were modified by either "idiot," "dummy" or "ignorant, stupid-ass Dad."

Then it was off to Modell's to indulge in plastic orange cones, a whiteboard with an soccer field diagram on it, and, every youth sport coaches' ace in the hole, pepper spray. Unfortunately, on that last one, I had to settle for a whistle.

I read. I watched video. I drew up a detailed game plan … just for my practices. In fact, I did more work on this than on the presentations I did at my old corporate job. But then, most of those executives only acted like elementary school girls. This time, I was going head to head with the real thing.

When my team showed for its first practice, I repeatedly called every player by the wrong name, even Thing 1 because I didn't want her to get special treatment. I had them play a series of goofy games that I was told would trick them into learning important skills like ball control, passing and showboating so your highlight would make ESPN that night.

They laughed. They giggled. They fell an awful lot, too.

At the end, we played a 5-on-5, free-for-all match that gave me the epiphany I needed. My overarching coaching goal for this season would be simple: Perfect a dance that would bring frequent, violent lightning storms every Saturday morning so our games would be canceled.

Then, we had our second practice. At this one, my assistant coach showed up. He came bearing sheaves of diagrams and definitions. My shortcomings were about to be exposed.

Actually, it was a good balance. He knew something about soccer other than the team with the most goals when the whistle blows wins. He knew technique. He knew skills. He was also willing to play bad cop to my Barney Fife.

"Hey, listen to Coach Uncool or else you're going be taking a lap around the field," he told one hyperactive player. He had missed it early when this same player told me I could easily remember her name because it rhymed with "wacky."

This was unprecedented. No one ever recognizes my authority. Not My Love, not the Things, not the dog. This called for a testing of boundaries.

At the end of practice, I called everyone in.

"Now Coach Joe here really knows his stuff. If he tells you something that is completely different than what I tell you, chances are that he is probably right and I'm wrong," I told my giggly gaggle of girls. "But, since I'm the head coach, you'll still need to do what I say. That's the law."

Tittles of laughter.

"He's right," said Coach Joe. "He's the head coach. You do as he says."

I don't know about you, kids, but I smell … ah, victory.

For more kicks and balls, go to, register and give me a smiley.


  1. I remember being in soccer as a kid and thinking my coaches knew everything.

    Now I know the truth.

  2. "My overarching goal for this season would be simple: Perfect a dance that would bring frequent, violent lightning storms every Saturday morning so our games would be canceled."
    That's hysterical! I'm crying!

  3. Oh!


    That sounds horrific... why would you want to put yourself throught the pain and agony.

    You need a drink.

  4. Had to come out of the abyss for this one. De ja vu all over again but replace soccer with lacrosse (Of course I played back in the days of wooden sticks and catgut - or maybe that was Home Ec Class ....) Season finish: 0-10.

    As for girls soccer, just remember the most important thing: Uniform Matching Hair Scrunchies. (Detailed instructions are available on the Black Market.)

    Oh, and don't forget the half-time snack.....(Nachos and Beer worked for us Coaches)

  5. Fantastic! I had to call my husband who is currently in Brazil (damn that job of his) and read this to him. The first thing he said to our first born "please don't play soccer." Now soccer is the only thing that kid wants to play, day and night. We just may look into the pepper spray idea though...

  6. Avitable - Welcome, first-time commenter. Ah, to be young and stupid again.

    Anonymous - I don't think I've evr gotten an anonymous comment before. Thanks, sis!

    Sarah - A drink? Try a case.

    Mom o' 2 - I'm screwed on scrunchies. We don't get uniforms until right before game time tomorrow.

    Seriously - While he's in Brazil, can he pick me up a couple of ringers?

  7. I can't WAIT for the first game report!

  8. CT Dad was recruited to help during soccer evals, has not been suckered into assistant coach yet.

    It's just a matter of time.

    I'll buy you a beer next week.

  9. Funny stuff, enjoyed the post. My son had a brutt of a basketball coach first year playing. When the coach got pissed he would tell them he got stuck with the scrub team and go over to his car and crack a heineken. Really.

  10. you had a coach for beer pong?


  11. Mrs. - Not if I get this dance thing down right.

    CTMom - You're too kind.

    Pseudo - Could be worse. He could be downing a whole bottle of Jack D.

    Atomic - Now, how am I supposed to respond to that? Thanks.

    Greg - I take beer pong very seriously.

  12. My girls both play soccer, the 8-yr-old on an all-girls team and the 5-yr-old on a mixed team. I always wondered what was in those cans the coach carrie. Now I know. Pepper spray. Makes sense.

    Oh and if you perfect the lightning dance, you should consider giving workshops. I'd sign up.

  13. Um, that should be " carried." My fingers are on strike today.

  14. No time for a 7 year old to coordinate her hair accessories????


  15. hat's off to you!! You are a brave man!

  16. Oh my goodness.

    I don't even know if my kids like soccer but I coach three teams a year because it's the only thing I'm any good at.

    Get them to play their positions and never kick with their toes, that's all a 7 year old needs to know.

    Also, I wear a tiara to every practice, because I'm Queen of the Field and no one interrupts the Queen.

  17. My daughters did the soccer thing, but I did a much better job of being the yelling parent on the sidlines. Until my wife told me to shut up.

    Good luck on the boy thing. They seem to come out of the woodwork...

  18. Clearly I must become a coach, for the respect as well as the right to demand to be called "Coach" everywhere I go.

  19. Ahhhhh. The sweet taste of victory ... and authority. Good luck. Remember that people at the top always have it hardest. ALWAYS!

  20. Finally! Some ball talk around here! I'm disappointed that it took me so long to get to this post today! Because 'twas hilarious!

  21. The fact that the league made you a head coach has NOTHING to do with the reasons why we pulled The Girl from soccer. Nothing at all.

    We'll see you on the fields on Sunday for the boy showdowns.

  22. My son is only four and my husband is counting the days until he can coach soccer or little league. He also can't wait to be a boy scout troop leader.

    I, the other hand, have no desire to coach a thing. Nothing. I'm sure the local discount liquor store would love it because their sales would go through the roof. No patience for that stuff. None.

  23. you are a bold man. there ain't no way i'd do this.

  24. My daughter's soccer coach seems to know what he is doing. I had the chance to be an assistant, but between work and grad school, I declined. But I am totally jazzed to do it next year. Fun post!

  25. I'm still trying to figure out what name rhymes with wacky.


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