Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Remembering Brookside Soccer

On the way home the other day, I saw a group of tiny soccer players swarming around a field, hip-high to a guy trying to restrict the motion to a space defined by plastic orange cones. It brought a surge of nostalgia - for years, I was a coach of kids in Brookside soccer.

The team played together for 4 or 5 years, and I had a tremendous amount of fun in my role as coach. Part of the reason for the pleasant experience was the attitude of my group of parents. The only time a parent questioned my substitutions was once when one asked whether her son had spent his fair share of time on the bench; I wasn't subjected to the hyper-competitive parents who advocate for their child's maximum time at preferred positions.

But the greatest part was the kids. They were a motley crowd of widely varying abilities. A few of them belonged on premier teams, a few of them showed no evidence of athletic ability whatsoever, but most of them were average kids, full of energy, short of attention, and always excitable. I shouted through the games, but only advice and positive comments. As a result, the less talented players always felt welcome on our recreational team, and everyone got equal playing time, so, as the years in the league progressed, our team slipped further and further from a winning record, as other teams winnowed their ranks of weaker players by making them feel less welcome.

By the end of our time together, wins came rarely, but the team always had fun, and we had our sparks of talent. Justin had a booming foot and a great, can-do attitude. Steven was hilarious, a smart-mouthed kid who kept me in stitches. Arnaud was a great kid, with all-star talent. Lee, Bobby, Paul, Andrew, Ben, and dozens of others cycled through the team, and all brought enthusiasm and developing skills.

They are now in their early twenties. I've lost touch with most of them, though I see a few of their parents around once in a while, and ask how they're doing.

Seeing the coach out in the field with the group of little, shin-guarded tykes, it crossed my mind to volunteer again, and take on a new group of kids. But then I remembered that I'm not as quick on my feet anymore, and my schedule would make practice time hard to calendar. I also reminded myself of those cold, not-quite-rainy-enough Saturday mornings when I wished I could just sleep in.

If you're of an age and station where you have the time and ability to coach a group of little ones, I recommend the experience with sincere warmth. Go here to get involved.

My team never won a bunch of games, but we had a lot of fun, learned a few skills, and outclassed everyone we played with our sportsmanship. Except for that time that Steven spit in his hand before the traditional post-game hand-slaps with the opposing team . . .



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I played on your team. Thank you.

9/02/2009 10:42 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home