When my older son Justin was 6 years old, my wife Cindy signed him up to play
recreational league soccer.
I watched from the sidelines that first year as Justin played in the middle of the field. Don’t ask me the name of his position. I didn’t care or know back then, and nothing’s changed since.
Please excuse my ignorance: When I was Justin’s age we didn’t have soccer practice. I’m guessing it was because none of us had ever even heard of soccer. From what I could tell, Justin’s job was to make sure he never interfered with the soccer ball while it was in motion and to let his mom know if there were any butterflies on the field. I noticed he handled both
responsibilities extremely well.
But throughout the entire season, Justin never laid a hand, or should I say a foot on
the ball. You see, there were a few times when he actually did lay a hand on the ball,
and each time he was called for some lame penalty. Apparently it’s against the rules
to touch a soccer ball with your hands in soccer.
That is, of course unless you’re the kid who can’t run very fast and has to play in front of the net, then you’re allowed to touch it with your hands. Stupid European game that will never take the place of football in the United States in a bazillion years!
After the season, I took Justin to the local playground so he could practice not touching the soccer ball with his hands. During that afternoon Justin even kicked the ball a time or two – with his foot! – and I noticed he could kick the ball a country kilometer.
I thought to myself what an asset he would be to a team if he played in the backfield near the chubby kid who kept taking off one of his gloves to pick his nose by the net – I believe he was called the “goalie” – and kicked the ball all the way to the other side of the field towards the other team’s net. Sheer genius!
But now the big question was: How do I pull this off? What soccer coach in his right mind let one kid stand next to the net whose only job was to kick the ball really, really hard? It would take a person with a lot of… guts to pull something like that.
Then it dawned on me: “In his right mind.” The solution was obvious: I would coach Justin’s soccer team.
Before I could say “Cambridge University” – soccer has its roots in Cambridge, England – I was knighted, another British reference… I’m on a roll, as coach of a soccer team. Practices were always a lot of fun because all we did was scrimmage.
And when I say “we” I truly meant “we” because I enjoyed the hell out of running up and down the field with a bunch of rowdy 7- and 8-year-olds in the cool autumn air, occasionally stopping to admire another one of Justin’s country-kilometer kicks from one end of the field to the other.
We had quite a season that year and ended up with a perfect record of 12–0. Twelve losses and zero wins. But we had a blast and when I say “we” I mean the same “we” that scrimmaged two afternoons a week while the boys’ incredibly supportive parents stood on the sideline offering me all kinds of free advice to use in the upcoming game. I feel bad I never actually used any of their suggestions but it wasn’t entirely my fault:
Most of the time I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about.
Scott Ludwig lives, runs and writes in Senoia with his wife Cindy, three cats and never enough visits from his grandson Krischan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His books can be found on his author page on Amazon.