On the evolution of a soccer coach

I’ve never played soccer, not even once. I know it involves kicking the ball into a goal and you’re not supposed to use your hands. And that parents sometimes go a bit loony over how well their kids play the game. That’s about all I know about soccer. And so it is with a great deal of surprise that I find myself coaching two soccer teams this year, after narrowly surviving coaching one team last year. I’m not sure how this happened but I blame my wife. In the space of one year she turned me into a soccer dad. This is how it happened.

My wife comes from a big soccer family. Much family lore and discussion revolves around how well her brother played soccer in his youth and collegiate years. He was quite a soccer stud muffin. (I’ve never been a muffin, I was more of a bombe) And so it was that when our oldest son turned 5 we signed him up for youth soccer in Half Moon Bay When we went to the sign-ups we found that they had many more kids than teams and they were begging for coaches. I revealed my astounding soccer ignorance and they took me as a coach anyway for a team of 4 and 5 year olds.

I found out I loved 4+5 year old soccer. There are no refs, no goalie, no keeping score, and no penalties. If any parent is caught keeping score we send them home. The main rule for this age group is “Don’t kick each other on purpose” At the beginning of the first game I told the other coach that I didn’t know the rules and that she had to tell me when we were supposed to throw the ball in and when we got to kick it in from the corner or goal. And she didn’t even laugh at me. Stunning.

The most surprising thing about coaching last year was that since I didn’t know how to play soccer we didn’t get too wrapped up in taking soccer too seriously. Every practice was basically a playdate with black and white balls. The kids had a blast and the parents thought we did great.

Soccer faded in our lives over the winter but when summer arrived I found that we now had two kids eligible for soccer this year. Lo the anguish. Lo the pain. Whose team would I coach, if any? After much breast-beating and angst I decided that since I still didn’t actually know the rules of soccer I should stick with my strengths; I would focus on coaching our oldest daughter’s 4+5 year old team. (Cue dramatic music) Unfortunately, fate conspired against me. (kill the theme music)

On the last day of soccer signups I was speaking with our league coordinator and found that we had 9 boys in the under 8 years range that wanted to sign up but once again we had no coaches. And the league was going to set the teams that evening. Worse, one of the boys who was not going to get to play is our oldest boy’s best friend. So after another round of breast-beating and anguish I am now coaching two teams. One goup of 4+5 year olds and one group of 6+7 year old boys.

I still don’t know a lot about soccer but the older boys have been teaching me. I now know that there are “backs” and “forwards” in addition to the goalie. There are also some other fellas on the field at the same time and I’m not real clear on what to call them. I’ve taken to calling them my midfielders. I think I heard someone on the sidelines use that word once.

In the 6+7 year old league we have a goalie and a ref but we still don’t officially keep score. The kids do, though, and they tell me that we lost our first game and won our second game. That’s pretty cool and the kids still seem to be having fun. Their favorite part of practice is when we scrimmage against the parents.

The second half of every practice is a scrimmage game with ourselves. And if things work out, the last 5 minutes are a scrimmage against the parents. I don’t really know why I started asking the parents to play but it seemed like a good idea and the kids like it. And I figure any time you can get parents to play with their kids you’re doing alright.

Best of all, having two games to coach on Saturday morning makes for a great excuse for a Saturday afternoon nap when we get home.

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One Comment on “On the evolution of a soccer coach”

  1. Erika Says:

    I think it’s great that your kids are going to see their dad learn something new!


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