November 11, 2008

Not The Soccer Dad

You can call me Soccer Dad. No, I am not the illustrious and far more famous Soccer Dad of the blogosphere. I am just another Joe who answered the call to action and volunteered to coach his child's team.

For the past couple of years I have dedicated several hours each week to the grand task of coaching. And while I have enjoyed it, I must say that this year has been far more fun than years past. The easiest explanation is that the kids are finally mature enough to really play the game.

Don't get me wrong, I have always enjoyed this. It is a lot of fun getting out there and working with the children. But in the past it was a bit like herding cats. You'd work hard on teaching the kids what to do and when but you never really knew what would happen. The game would start and you'd watch as two or three of your young charges would see a grasshopper or a bird and lose all interest in playing.

So you'd spend a few minutes trying to encourage them to stop chasing butterflies and chase the ball instead. Sometimes you'd meet with success and sometimes it was a complete failure.

But this year has been a different story. The boys get it. They understand the game and want to play. Now the big struggle has been dealing with only one hour of practice each week. It really isn't enough time to teach/work on all of the skills they need to be successful.

And of course there is the bonus of dealing with the parents/relatives who decide that they know how to coach better than you do. I rather think that it is similar to what some of my rabbi friends deal with when they interact with their congregants. There is always some gadfly who wants/needs to tell you what you are doing wrong and how you could do it better.

But the advantage I have over your shul rabbi is that this is not my livelihood. I remind them that we're there to have fun and that this is the main focus. I also get to say things like "you're going to look awfully funny with my size 12 cleat sticking out of your ass" or "I bet that being forced to swallow a soccer ball is really uncomfortable."

You'd be surprised how fast they adjust their attitude. Matter of fact I am going to recommend that my pals in the rabbinate consider taking a similar tack. Next time the shul president provides you with unrestrained criticism take the closet siddur and smack them across the head. As they look up at you in shock you can explain that you took their words to heart and are assisting them in davening with more kavanah.

Anyhoo, I spent a chunk of time this evening preparing for the next couple of games. League rules mandate that every child get a chance to play every position. I happen to support that, at least for the younger kids. It does present a few challenges.

The big one is that you can't maintain your strongest lineup for the entire game, at least not if you follow the rules. This is one of those rules that some coaches have a tough time with. They hate losing so they try to ignore it.

Confession: In a preseason coache's meeting I was asked to explain my coaching philosophy. I looked the guy dead in the eye and said "sweep the leg." He looked at me and said that he didn't have a clue what I was talking about.

I told him that Miyagi and Daniel-san would be happy to explain it to him. He asked me if that was the name of a bar. I said no and told him that there was a great bar called The Cobra Kai and that he ought to try it.

And then I wandered off and muttered to myself about stupid pop culture references. Is it really almost 25 years since the movie came out. Damn, I am getting old.

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