For the past few weeks I have been coaching soccer once a week through our community association. It is run by parent volunteers, some of whom get sucked into coaching. The first year they get you by asking for assistant coaches to just help out and cover off the “real” coaches when they are on vacation. At the end of the year they ask you to store some nets – then you have to come back because if you don’t bring the nets back, the poor kiddies won’t have any nets to kick the ball towards.
This year I am coaching four and five year-olds with another dad. I like to think of coaching as another way of saying herding. Some nights we have 30 kids and since it is not a league with set teams we spend time doing drills and then divide them up and pit them against one another. Imagine the clash of the English and Scottish armies in Braveheart and you’ll have a good sense of what it looks like when we drop the ball. There aren’t any assigned positions since we are just teaching them basics at this point so it is just a roving hord of children trying to keep up with the kid who has the ball at that moment. They behave a bit like a flock of birds swooping through the sky.
As the coach I get to play the same kind of role I played as a kid on an actual soccer team. I stand around in the field and watch the other players run after the ball. Sometimes I blow the whistle to try and regain some semblance of control, but that is mostly an illusion.
The kids seem to be having a good time and nobody has broken an ankle yet, although I have been kicked in the ankle a few times. Tonight one of the smaller kids took a ball to the face and other than being startled be the experience, he took it pretty well and went back to playing. Fortunately it wasn’t a full power kicked ball, it was being thrown by the goalie so pretty low impact. I told him about a time when I was a kid playing soccer and I was playing defence. I blocked a kicked ball with my cheek. It hit so hard that I had a hexagon imprint on my cheek. It hurt a lot, but it is a good story now.
Not in the Face!
It has also provided me with a battle cry that I share with Arthur – the sidekick in The Tick cartoon.
A summer full of herding flocks of birds awaits!