I didn’t choose soccer, it chose me
I’m not sure how I ended up with a whistle around my neck Monday evenings at Kelso Park.
Wait, I know — I took it away from my wife because I felt she wasn’t blowing it nearly enough.
But why we were asked in the first place by Jefferson Park & Rec to be soccer coaches, I haven’t a clue.
To be honest, it was actually my wife who was asked. I just weaseled my way onto the field because I wanted the whistle.
When we signed up our son for soccer this fall, it was hoped that it would be a little more action-packed (translation: more fun to watch) than T-ball this past spring.
I understand that baseball might be a difficult concept for 5-year-olds to grasp.
But soccer? I was optimistic from the get-go when we learned we’d have to go buy shin guards.
“Finally,” I thought, “a little danger.”
But never did I imagine I’d come home one day to hear my wife say, “I’m going to be Henry’s soccer coach.”
“But you don’t know anything about soccer,” I laughed.
She didn’t say anything, which really only meant one thing — by default, I was going to be Henry’s soccer coach, too.
“But I don’t know anything about soccer,” I said, “except that the fans get really drunk in the pub beforehand and then are prone to rioting.
“And, believe me, honey, I was planning on doing exactly that each week.”
Don’t confuse my lack of knowledge about soccer with a hatred of the game.
I don’t have anything against soccer.
There are still those Americans, of course, who love to dismiss the sport as “European,” which, apparently, is an insult of sorts in some circles in middle America.
Conversely, all of my hip friends on Facebook who live in big cities seem to love soccer as much as they hate Walmart and McDonald’s.
I’m simply just indifferent to soccer, as I am with most sports.
I’ve never watched any World Cup play.
At the start of our son’s soccer season, I joked that the only soccer I’ve ever watched was the movie “Alive” back in the early ’90s — about that South American team that crash-lands in the Andes on the way to agame and ends up eating each other.
But, just this morning, I looked up “Alive” on IMDb and discovered it was actually about a rugby team.
Soccer, rugby — the players all taste the same.
And so my wife and I reported for duty several weeks ago as coaches of the Fire. (And, here, I thought all soccer teams were named United.)
Thankfully, Libby Towers, of the park and rec department, leads the first half of practice every Monday and teaches the kids (and us) a thing or two about soccer.
“Hmm,” I remarked to my wife that first night, “I never knew that was called the midfield line.”
And, thankfully, my wife is there.
While I quickly snatched the whistle away from her, her expertise with children is second-to-none.
That much was evident when a boy on our son’s team, a fellow kindergartner, came up to me that first practice and said he had to go to the bathroom.
I looked around.
“Ohhh-kay,” I said, “go ahead and go use that bathroom over there.”
Seconds later, he was back.
“It’s locked,” he reported.
Literally, just as I was about to say, “Just go pee near those woods,” my wife spoke up and suggested he go tell his mom.
“Well,” I thought, “that’s one way of handling it.”
The games themselves are actually pretty awesome, made even more awesome by the fact that the other parent-coaches don’t know anything about soccer, either.
We just let the kids go at it, three-on-three.
We don’t keep score, but, by my count, our team has been outscored 473-4.
On the other hand, not one of our kids has cried ... yet.
Even at this young age, though, natural athleticism shines through.
You can already tell who’s going to be a star athlete later on in high school.
And you can also tell who’s going to be in the band — like my kid.
But at this age, my son isn’t yet embarrassed by me, either.
When I loudly protested at the last game that I wanted to verify the professional status of the other team’s star player, accusing him of being on the “Pygmy National Team at the last World Cup,” he didn’t look mortified.
He just thinks it’s cool that his dad has a whistle, and isn’t afraid to use it.