Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mean boys

1 Corinthians 2:3-4a (NIV)

I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words…
“Adam, Ben, Chris and David, you guys go with Coach Carlos. Ernie, Fred, Griffin and Harry, you guys will work with Coach Scott.”

It was at that point the kindergarten students on the soccer team I help coach (whose real names I did not use) began laughing hysterically, apparently because Scott is not a name they hear very often. Or maybe it was on account of the lot of them being rowdier than usual, which is saying a lot for five- and six-year-old boys at soccer practice. Either way, I did not exactly enjoy being the subject of group derision.

On the upside, it ended quickly as they stopped making fun of my name to instead ignore the passing drill they were supposed to be doing. Also, I am 34 years old and beyond the point of being humiliated by children, especially those I can still lift one-handed. But I am the father of school-aged children, and the brief episode certainly made me think about my own school days and what my kids or those in their class might be going through on a regular basis. I’m also the husband of a pregnant lady, and I thought briefly about all the baby names we suggested and rejected, saying them out loud repeatedly and considering how they might be twisted on the playground.

We're not very good at giving our teammates space to maneuver.
I should not be a soccer coach. For one thing, I don’t know very much about soccer. For another, this pregnancy could get real serious any day now, and when that happens I’ll be considerably less accountable to a bunch of other people’s kids. For yet another, I am not really possessed of the personality required to successfully herd this many kids for a few hours each week. Not that anyone is, of course, but I have seen some pretty good coaches out there so far this year.

It’s not a complete sense of weakness with fear and trembling, but a few Saturdays ago when our real coach was gone (on picture day, no less), my message was neither wise nor persuasive. It was incredibly hot for early September. We had all nine kids at the game, which meant three had to sit out at any given time. We don’t have any formal rotation, and juggling substitutions is my department. Whenever kids were too hot to want to play, I didn’t complain. At one point, near the end of the first half, one of our players who was supposed to be sitting ran out to join the game, and I didn’t bother pulling one of the other boys out. No one noticed, but I was pretty happy a few seconds later when the whistle blew.

The best thing I can say about the kids — not the only thing, but the best thing — is the few minutes half of them spent giggling over my name are probably the worst behaved they’ve been all season. They can be unruly, and they’re not quick to grasp fundamentals of the game (so far as I understand them, anyway), but they are actually pretty good at being respectful of each other and don’t get too upset when games end in scoreless ties. We don’t really have problems with hyperactive parents and, for our family at least, it seems like the perfect activity for a son with boundless energy.

Maybe Max will want to do soccer again in the spring. We won’t push him, but we’ll sign him up if he asks. I can probably offer to help coach again — some Wednesdays it’s my only real chance at exercise. But as he gets older and he and his peers get easier to deal with in large numbers, I’m going to be more and more out of my element on the sidelines and at weekly practices. But hey, there’s two more boys behind him, and maybe they’ll want to play kindergarten soccer, too. We already own the shoes and shinguards from when Jack played, and now I have my very own bright blue T-shirt with “COACH” on the back in big, block letters.

“Kick it that way, kids. Don’t use your hands. And from now on, just call me Max’s dad.”

A prayer for September 19:

Lord, please help me continually seek opportunities to share with others the way your love and grace have shaped my life. Give me the strength I need to speak and write with confidence and the wisdom to use language that promotes unity and understanding. Push me out of my comfort zones and keep my mindful of times when I have been rewarded for stretching those boundaries. Be with me always, God, and let me live as someone who is never fully alone. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment