Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

They Call Me 'Coach'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

They Call Me 'Coach'

Article excerpt

It was a small box on my daughter's registration form for soccer. So I checked it off, scrawling "if needed" in the margin.

Eventually, the phone rang.

I hadn't played the game since a summer league in the eighth grade, and my college rugby cleats had long since disintegrated. But by the next morning, a large mesh bag of old balls and orange cones sat on my doorstep with a box of new blue uniforms. The clipboard had a schedule, a roster, and a book on coaching. Our first game was that weekend, and I could hold practice on Tuesdays behind the tennis courts at the junior high. And that's where I found myself. Scuffing around the freshly-lined field in a pair of beat-up old running shoes. Shouting instructions to 11 girls in jerseys that came down to their knees. Feeling like I was bluffing with a pair of twos. Fortunately, eight-year-olds are still fairly gullible. And with a tip of their caps, my assistant coaches - two gracious dads who had to leave work early - played up the charade. We had everyone believing I was head coach. Even me. Halfway through the season, I went out and bought myself a whistle. We were 6 and 4 that fall. A respectable record for an intramural league where one-third of the kids were no-shows at any given game. But over the winter we lost our two best strikers - one to the boys' league and one to karate. In the spring, we went 0-8- 1. The girls were quite resilient. They ran around after games squirting each other with their water bottles and squealing. I, of course, was a wreck. Each week, my husband had to talk me down off the ledge. He'd been a strong college player with several awards to show for it, and had put in his own three years as a coach for our kids. So I was almost tempted to listen to him. "Pay no attention to those other parents," he said. "If they really knew what they were talking about, they'd be coaching instead of kibitzing." And, "Soccer is a game of control and patience. These are eight-year-olds." And finally, "You can't play the game for them. At the end of the day, they have to win or lose it on their own. …

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