Last Saturday I spent a lovely afternoon watching my grandson play soccer. It brought back memories of the time my son played soccer and I was an accidental coach. Years ago I wrote a story about that experience.
When I first told my family that I was a soccer coach they didn’t believe me. You see, I had never played soccer. I had never even watched a soccer game. My position as a soccer coach began as a mistake.
When I signed my son up for soccer I checked one of the boxes indicating that I would volunteer my assistance. Whenever my children were involved in an activity it seemed prudent to be involved. I could bake cookies or make phone calls. At the first team meeting a tall man announced to the group. “I’m looking for Carol Van Der Woude.”
I stepped forward with a smile, “that’s me.”
“I’m John. I understand that you are my assistant coach.”
I gasped and then stuttered. “I’m pleased to meet you. I did sign up to assist . . . um . . . I can make phone calls, bring snacks.”
John smiled and responded. “All the parents will bring snacks. I’ll just need you to help with the practices and then cover a few games when I am out of town. It’s not hard, We have a training session this coming Saturday.”
The following Saturday I arrived at the sport center dressed in casual clothes and leather sandals. I brought my notebook and pen, prepared to take notes on my new role. With a sinking heart I noticed that I was one of a few females and that everyone was dressed in shorts and tennis shoes. John greeted me, looked at my attire and chuckled. “It’s going to be a little hard to control the ball in those shoes.”
When the instructor for our session asked everyone to assemble on the indoor soccer field, I felt a little sick. I stayed at the back of the group, trying to be invisible.
It was to no avail. The instructor walked over and looked me up and down. I was hoping that he would ask me to sit out. Instead he shrugged as amusement crossed his features. “It’ll have to do.”
We practiced countless drills, dribbling and passing the ball, running around cones. I survived the running and kicking and returned to my seat to write furious notes.
As I wrote I thought, I’ve taught Lamaze skills for many years. Surely I can teach soccer skills. Certainly there are principles that apply to both.
During our practices I had each child introduce himself and encouraged the children to call each other by name. I was sure that a good sense of team effort and a supportive environment would benefit the players. It was a delight to see the shy child’s face light up when his team-mates called to him by name.
John was out of town for our second game. I rotated the 5 and 6 year old boys on and off the field. Whenever a child became distracted or was hesitant about kicking the ball I coached him. “Focus on the ball, breathe in, breathe out and kick!” From the sidelines I yelled “Breathe and kick!”
After my grandson’s game I took out the team picture from 23 years ago. I was standing proudly with the team. I never coached another soccer team, but I have happy memories of that year.
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