When you coach middle school boys’ soccer, remember these important rules:
- Always say “soccer” before “balls,” as in “I need some (soccer) balls over here.”
- You must institute a No Farting rule in your mini-van or else, anything goes. And it will start going before you even shut the doors to head to the game 30 loooong minutes away.
- When girls are within a 500-yard radius of your practice, anything you are saying will sound like the adults on Peanuts:“Wah wah wah wah wah wah.” Wait for it to pass — or announce that you need some balls.
And yet, I’ll miss the boys. I know, I know. It will be nice to have my weekends back now that my U-12 boys’ soccer season is over. (We won the flight! Go Renegades!) I know that the other coaches agree with me that not being outside at 8 a.m. on increasingly chilly Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons will be easy to get used to.
And yet, I’ll miss the boys. It’s about the soccer, sure, but it’s way more than that. It’s about witnessing boys turning into gentlemen.
After yesterday’s game, the team and their families descended on Dairy Queen to celebrate the victory of the game and the season. When the head coach gave one of our midfielders, Max, the game ball for playing well, Max turned around and gave it to me, “for coaching so well this season,” he explained.
Which earned him a big hug and a kiss on top of his head. (They are still shorter than I am… this week, anyhow.) The best part? The look of astonished pride on his mother’s face.
This is why I coach. It’s for the moments of great character that rise up (between burping contests). It’s for seeing the kid whose mouth had gotten him in trouble the past few seasons, shut it and accept the referee’s call. It’s for the kid with the mediocre shot in August who popped one over the other goalie’s head — again and again this fall. It’s for the group hug for the boy who headed one into the goal, just like we’d practiced the last few months. It’s for all 17 of them, wearing their championship shirts to school today.
The spring season will start soon enough, and then I’ll be outside in long underwear at 8 a.m. on Saturday mornings once again. I’ll be jumping into pricker bushing to retrieve the game ball, and listening to a car full of boys substitute “world” with “squirrels” when they sing along with my Cold Play CD. (“I used to rule the squirrels…”)
Tell you what: When the snow melts from the soccer field next spring, you bring the Gatorade and the handwarmers. I’ll bring the balls.
Tee hee hee.