Please Don't Think of Me as a Role Model  

Late last year, somewhere right in the middle of both autumn as well as my son's youth soccer season, I made a bold proclamation: "I could do a better job coaching than these guys." "These guys" was in reference to the dynamic husband/wife duo that taught our kids many valuable lessons, unfortunately very few of them were soccer-related. My personal favorite was this little game they made up called "Gotcha!" wherein you talk crap about people who "haven't committed to living sustainably," then bring individually-wrapped Hostess Twinkies for the post-game snack. An ethos with all the bragging rights but none of the responsibility? Game on! In the end, I promised that I would coach Evan's team next year.

But promises have a way of catching up with you.

For example, that promise now has me coaching seven 6-year-old boys in youth soccer through November. Thankfully it's an age where we get to do weird shit like capitalize the first three letters of "FUNdamentals" and basically play games for an hour. I've been wondering if the parents would be OK with us having an entire practice devoted to frisbee and kickball, you know, in the spirit of active living in general.

Despite having two seasons of youth soccer in junior high school under my belt, I had to reach out to the Internet to fill in a couple of gaps in my coaching technique. There are also lots of other things involved that nobody tells you to prepare for, such as whistle blowing. I realize it's silly to sit here and think about how to blow a whistle, but if you do enough of those half-ass weak-sounding whistle blows, people start to notice. That and seven 6-year-old boys might be just as hard to keep under control as fourteen 3-year-old ones. What's nice is how our practice field apparently lines up with a nearby airport runway, because a different airplane flies overhead every 10 minutes or so. And let's face it, airplanes are a cool distraction no matter how old of a boy you are.

We've been practicing for just over two weeks now, and I've got to admit a level of fun I hadn't expected. I did find that it boosts my personal level of fun to have my back facing the parents during practice. None of the kids on the team are the really difficult kind, meaning the kind who'll start screaming and throw themselves onto the ground, refusing to move. Although I suppose if that happens I can have the team run drills around them. Then again maybe leaving my back turned to the parents isn't such a great strategy after all.

I think there's somewhere between 2-3 weeks before actual games start, at which point I'm allowed to stand on the field to coach during gameplay, and there may or may not be some referee duties involved. No striped shirts though. Probably shouldn't wear my zombie Jesus t-shirt either. Which, brings up another point altogether, about how I should have named the team The Zombies.

One final thought: if seven people yell "Coach!" at you for an hour straight, your dreams tend to get frequent visits from Craig T. Nelson.

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15 Reasons to Live

  • ArabianMagic  
    August 26, 2009 at 7:20 AM

    Haha! I coached Middle School softball last year because I love the game (andneededtheextramoney). I getting to be on the bench and control the game, though it was automatically assumed by a few parents that I was a lesbian because I coached softball. Uh, no? I just really love the game. Honestly.

  • Lindsey  
    August 26, 2009 at 8:08 AM

    Ok, so this comment has nothing to do with your post.

    But dude, I work for a big company and this morning I saw you. You're an IT guy here. Crazy hey?!

    If my stupid camera phone worked, Id be all sneaky and snap a picture for you. But, it doesnt, so you'll just have to trust me.

  • Shannon  
    August 26, 2009 at 8:26 AM

    I would pay to see this.

  • NYD  
    August 26, 2009 at 8:41 AM

    Does the whistle give you a strange sense of power over human beings? Are you tempted to take it into work?

    Good luck with the kids and remember to have fun.

  • Fat Sparrow  
    August 26, 2009 at 9:22 AM

    Herding children, for any reason, is a thankless job at best.

    I recommend cattle prods.

    And here's the T-shirt you need. An oldie but a goodie.

  • shine  
    August 26, 2009 at 9:22 AM

    You didn't name your team The Zombies?!?

    I'm taking away your...zombie merit badge for that one.

  • Monkey Girl  
    August 26, 2009 at 9:41 AM

    Having your back to the parents is always a plus.

    A second Fat Sparrow's t-shirt idea.

    As long as none of the kids are picking dandelions on the pitch during the game, you should be great.

    Do the kids get to play in the rain? Snow?

    Trust me, you'll rethink the whole karma thing, by the end of the season.

  • Heather Rose  
    August 26, 2009 at 9:53 AM

    I worked at a sport's store for two years...fitting those cute little demons with shin guards and nonlethal soccer cleets.

    I kind of got the impression that the coach dad's had some weird power trip thing going on.

    Good to see one that's just having fun.

    Way to go Zombies!

  • E  
    August 26, 2009 at 3:09 PM

    Coaching kids is crazy. I coached Boys & Girls Club and one boy never knew what was going on. He often danced around or stood lost in the middle of the court, but he seemed to have fun.

  • Jules  
    August 26, 2009 at 3:52 PM

    Awww, yay! I'm glad you're having fun with it!!!

  • Josh W.  
    August 26, 2009 at 5:37 PM

    Sounds like a good time. When I have kids, I hope to have as much fun as it sounds like you're having.

    Aand now I'm thinking of you as a role model...

    Yay for airplanes! :D

  • Jerry Mac  
    August 27, 2009 at 3:15 AM

    Hey Jay-

    You showed up in my morning Google Alert for "soccer coaching." I laughed and laughed reading your post; I've been in the soccer business almost twenty years and your story is one I've heard a million times. You just happen to articulate it much better than most. Two great books you might enjoy: Coaching 6 and Under Soccer (McWilliams) and Coaching 6, ,7 and 8 Year Olds (Howe and Waiters). You can normally pick them up at Amazon used for just a few bucks.

    Good luck, Coach!

  • Lora  
    August 27, 2009 at 7:31 AM

    my dad was a coach for my soccer team too. I was a little bit older, so I pretended to be embarrassed but I secretly loved it.

    I should probably tell him that, shouldn't I?

  • Jay Ferris  
    August 27, 2009 at 11:21 AM

    ArabianMagic - Yeah, obviously it doesn't work that way. You became a lesbian after coaching softball, right?

    Lindsey - Pics, or it didn't happen!

    Shannon - I'll be sure to get a pic posted of me all coached up next time I write a post on it.

    NYD - The whistle is indeed powerful. Which I can totally handle, even if I have taken to wearing the whistle underneath my shirt all day at work.

    FatSparrow - I need one of those shirts. Badly.

    Shine - You can have the merit badge, but hands off of my chainsaw collection.

    MonkeyGirl - I hope to play in as much rain as possible, but I already know some of the parents aren't too keen on the idea. Maybe I should buy umbrella hats and ponchos for the whole team?

    Heather - I thought about running things dictator-style for the first few practices, but several of the parents appear to be in good enough shape to severely hurt me.

    E - I have one kid who's sort of like that. Every passing butterfly costs us 2 minutes of practice time.

    Jules - Here's hoping it stays that way!

    Josh - Once you find the right combination of meds, fun is a given!

    Jerry - Hey, thanks for the book suggestions!

    Lora - You should probably tell him, but save it for when you need him for something and the added sweetness will aid in your cause.

  • James  
    August 27, 2009 at 6:56 PM

    God bless you.

    Can't wait to hear about the first time you get chewed out by another parent. Opposing team or your own. It's bound to happen.

    Speaking of Craig T. Nelson, I think half the reason I love SpongeBob SquarePants is because Patrick Star is voiced by Dauber.

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