Yesterday at 3:00 PM, the Northeast YMCA Purple Panthers began the final practice and game of our first 3 Year Old Soccer season. Little did I know way back in August at our first team meeting what I had gotten myself into.
Sure,…I had coached soccer before….even a 4/5-year-old team that should have prepared me for the rigors I was about to endure….but this would be my first foray into the volunteer coaching world where I would be coaching my own daughter, Maryjane…better known around the Soccer Club and AAU circuits as “Boogie.”
The season began with dreams of my little Boogie dribbling through defender after defender and slamming the ball in the back of the net with speed and accuracy. After all,… the Lincoln Soccer Arena on Autumn Leaf Ct had seen many a goal by this little dynamo, as she weaved her way around Daddy’s impenetrable defense. If only Pele could have seen her…..He would have been quite impressed I am sure.
Fast forward to our first game and my first as Coach/Father, I was prepared to let Boogie know that “after your 4th goal, we may want to pass the ball to our other players and allow them to score because we don’t want to be selfish and we want to be a good teammate.”….Oh the pride in knowing that I would have to “pull the reigns back on my little goal machine.” How would I make her understand that she can’t score ALL the goals, ALL the time? Oddly enough, that 4th goal never came…..not only for the first game…for the entire season.
As the whistle blew from our very pleasant and super friendly official signifying the start of the game, my little soccer dynamo proceeds to run straight to the ball…like her coach taught her I might add…..and swings her foot to place a solid strike on the ball, obviously to position it in the middle of the field for better shot angles. Sooooooo, the foot swings, the balls rolls a full and complete 7 inches, and Boogie proceeds to cry because Cameron, her teammate, took her ball away. I knew right then that my little soccer pro was not quite the player I thought she was…and you know what?…..I was perfectly OK with that knowledge.
The season progressed and I can honestly say it’s the most fun I have ever had. Cameron, Eli and Aaron were my little “serious” soccer players…. competitive and aggressive, looking to score every chance they got. Janna and Mary Claire were the little sweethearts on the team…nothing but smiles, and improving by the week. Ella and Noah were just happy to be on the field and running around with their teammates,….not too interested in the ball or how the game was going…but happy none the less. Then there was my little Boogie….always 6 steps behind the flow of play and going the wrong direction 1/2 the time…..and she loved it. I think she actually touched the ball, legally with her feet, a grand total of 11 times in 8 games. She thought she was the star of the game…each game, every game…….and she was..just so you know. apparently, in three-year old soccer…less is more…..Who knew?
The players didn’t care who won or lost. They didn’t care what the score was. They didn’t care that they played 3 quarters this week and 2 quarters the next, or that another kid got more playing time. They did care what snack was….and they cared that their family was there to cheer….and they cared that they practiced with the exact ball they brought from home because their name was on it. You know…the important stuff.
As coach and Dad, I realized quickly to take it all in and enjoy each of the 8 games. Every Sunday offered a unique memory I will not soon forget. I will tell you this, I laughed out loud at least 6 times a game….and that was the minimum. The season was hilarious and heart warming at the same time. We had a player who was good enough to play with the 5 year olds, right along side a girl who played with a prosthetic leg. No one even cared. We were all one team having a great time and learning a little about soccer along the way.
As I passed out our trophies and called each player’s name out to be recognized by our “fans”(that’s what the team parents became known to be, btw)……the cheers became loud and the smiles grew ear to ear. I will tell you, the experience of seeing a child get their first trophy is a great one, because they are so happy you know they will remember it for a long time. I will also tell you that the experience of seeing your own child get her first trophy….now that is something this coach is going to remember for a long time…..a very long time.
Think about volunteering to coach your kids…I recommend starting early and coaching often…..It might just be the coolest thing you will ever do. It was for this Daddy.