Saturday, September 11, 2010

woke up to obvious evidence that it had been raining; the patio outside was wet, and it was in fact drizzling even as we drank our morning coffee, and my wife fed the dogs. she's become a soccer coach of the kids' league, so now i go along to watch the 8-year-old, while she coaches the 5-year-old team which is playing at the same time this saturday morning. you'd think they'd call it off, with a thunderstorm threat and a wet field, but apparently a light rain doesn't affect the hard ground, and the thunderstorm never materializes, so it's all games forward, on a cloudy morning.

the 8-year-old has been bitten twice by hornets, so he's hobbling around looking injured and pained, but he's willing to play for a while with his new team anyway, and does. they are orange: should they call themselves the orange crush? the cantaloupes, is the best name anyone comes up with. they tear around on the field; many of his old friends, good friends, are on the team.

my wife has mentioned that it's really not helpful to be obsessed about the score, so i've tried an experiment: i won't mention it. if i obsess about it, i'll just keep it to myself. the kids themselves tend to notice, and care, and point it out, whether they won or lost. but we don't have to. it's strange, to suppress such natural obsession, but it's interesting - there are, in fact, other parts of the game that one can notice and discuss.

i used to have my boys in baseball - both tried it, in fact, but only one here in town, and they tried their best, but it became apparent, as they rose up the leagues (just by virtue of getting older) that everyone was taking it more seriously; the parents in particular cared more and more; it was so competitive that in some cases nobody was having any fun. two experiences taught me this very intensely; in one, a playoff game, our coaches rode the umpires so mercilessly that i was ashamed to be part of our own team; in another, the game was forfeited because the other team did not produce enough players; the parents backed off, and we had fun, for a change. that one night, under the lights, just playing for fun as i did as a child, i thought, this is how baseball should be. but that alone taught me that it wasn't how it is.

in soccer, the parents have much less of a clue, how the kids should play, and what they did wrong, in any particular incident. therefore they are much less likely to notice, point out, or care intensely about the thousands of mishaps that occur on the field in any given hour. let's face it, it's possible that very few of these kids will make it to the big leagues; in fact, we have a private soccer club in town that would probably want them if they really had that in mind. so it gives the game more of an amateur feeling; there is a general consensus that we should let the kids play, if possible, and not mix in too hard with the people that matter.

on my wife's team, which coincidentally has coffee-colored shirts, the amateur ethos is much more apparent, as the 5-year-old attention span is somewhat erratic and unpredictable. one year a few years back there was a 5-year-old team that came up against another similar one, one which was coached by a couple of international students with professional experience, who had the kids doing a warm-up involving an eight-design, and passing the ball to each other. i was impressed, and thought, oh this team will kill us; they've been trained by the pros. but when the game started, they were just like us; their players kicked the ball into their own goal, instead of ours; some were distracted by butterflies or by a tick crawling up their leg; in short, they were just as bad as we were. it helped reinforce in me the idea that, you can put your training regime down on them; you can teach them certain skills in isolation, but they're basically kids; they're out there because we want them to be; they're trying their best, but the vast majority of them weren't born for this situation, any more than they were born for a classroom. it's curious to watch them try to make everyone happy, but they're actually pretty transparent, in the way they like their treats, and go straight to the play structure when it's over.

i'm proud to say, i don't know the score for either game. in this regard, i'm a poor sports reporter, because sports reporters should keep track of the facts and try to report them in such a way that nobody trash-talks the newspaper for misrepresentation. it's big business, sports reporting, and still does well even as all other kinds of reporting are tanking. but i'm not reporting, i'm blogging, so i'll just put in my two cents about the parents' role, out there on a sideline, on a cloudy but pleasant fall day, you don't have to play, we told the kid with the hornets' bites; but he saw his old friends out there, and wanted to, because they were there. he looked pained, like it was hard for him to keep up with the pace of the game, but that would have been true anyway; you have to get in there, and elbow around for position. i supported him the best i could, and yelled things like "go orange" whenever it was appropriate. at one point the sun kind of came out, and folks got a little hot, but in general i think you could say that the fall games have better weather likelihood than the spring season, and i'm grateful they don't try it in the summer. soccer is alive and well at this level; lots of kids there; we knew lots of the parents; and, they'd told my wife she'd be an assistant, and then essentially gave her an entire team, and let her pick out her own assistant, from other parents who offered help but never actually signed up. it was our turn, i guess; they have a constant shortage of coaches, and we'd simply watched for a few years, basically letting others do the scheduling. now, i'll keep you posted on the progress of the coffee team (if i can) - the season stretches into the nice weather and beyond, and i'm sure there's a lot to write about. i'm not sure how it is in other towns. in towns like this though, this is what there is: you get out there, you get a colored shirt; you do your best, and you get some memories. there's usually a pizza party at the end. parents who help alot get some kind of invisible 'good parenting' award, that allows them bragging rights, and the knowledge that on some level, they did the best they could for their kids.

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