Monday, September 29, 2008

They Call Me Coach

I know this is been a rough season for us this year. Not a lot of shots of fallen for us this season. In fact, not a single shot has fallen for us in 14 games. So, I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is--are we going to let these 14 games determine the next one? Because if we are, we may as well go out there, shake hands with the other team, and congratulate them on their victory. I see some of you nodding your head in agreement right now. By all means, it's not an altogether absurd idea. The odds are that we're going to lose, no matter how we go about playing this game. So why do we play at all? Well, team, I'm afraid I don't have an answer for that question. You know why? Because it's a stupid question, asked by a doubtful and unhappy man. Forget his question. You just, you've gotta keep playing, because if you don't, you might end up like him, and let me tell you, he's no fun.
--Loneome Jim, 2005

In other news, I'm the assistant soccer coach for Eli's soccer team.

Actually, to call me a "coach" is probably a needless exaggeration. When the team is made up of seven and eight-year-olds, "coaching" duties are quite different from what you might expect. Here are a list of my important responsibilities:
1) Tie Shoe Laces
This is number one, by a wide margin. Children have a wide and unreliable number of methods for tying their shoe laces, and these methods have colorful names, like "Fox Chases Bunny Into Cave Where They Meet Angry Bear." When they stick their shoe out toward me in the universal signal for shoe tying assistance, they display a fascination about the method I use. "Is that the Kangaroo Javelin Eaten by Alligator?" they ask.

"Can't tell," I say. "It's a secret."

2) Wear A Red T-shirt
This is my official coaching t-shirt, which makes me feel more conspicuous than if I had doused myself with gasoline and set myself on fire.

3) Dispense High-Fives
In case you didn't get the memo, high-fives have officially replaced hugs as the currency of affection and encouragement. I high-five every kid (twelve) before the game starts, after every quarter (four, in some strange junior soccer league timing change), and at the end of every game. Every kid also gets at least one discretionary high-five--or several--during the game. That works out to over one high-five per minute over the course of an hour.

4) Be the Medic
Katherine got run over in Saturday's game (she's so skinny I think she's made out of balsa wood), and after she was helped to the sidelines, I went over to see how she was doing. She was crying. Hard. "Katherine, I'm sorry you got hurt," I said. "How are you doing?"

Still crying, she looked up and said "I'm fine. I can go back in." She proceeded to get up and go back into the game, still crying.

That's my kind of girl.

5) Explain Strategy

"Katherine," I say, "if you don't have someone to pass to, you can kick the ball toward the sidelines. That gives the rest of the team time to get back on defense. Just remember to kick it down the line, not across the field."

"Fish sticks!" she says, running toward midfield to find Katie so that she can give her a hug.

Clearly, to help them understand this strategy, I need to call it something like Turtle Eats Cheese With Curious Cat.

Eli 7.1 is the best player on this team, even faster than he was last season, and he understands how to play defense now. The worst thing about coaching, though, is that I actually wind up watching him less during the game, because there are other kids I'm trying to help with positioning. So I may turn in my red t-shirt at the end of this season to become a civilian again.

I do not expect my jersey to be retired.

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