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Saturday Soccer

The Junior Midgets’ teams both won their games of the season with the Midget boys dominating in the goal.  I’m a proud Papa today.  They both tried out for high school this year, with the older making varsity and the younger making junior varsity and have sat on the bench since.  With coaches who refuse to let their goalies practice and who refuse to give anybody but their #1 goalies playing time in the pre-season, my boys are wasting away and not getting the opportunity to do for their high school the thing they love so much.  Today, on their rec teams, they showed what they could do.  It’s a shame their high school coaches are such asses.

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Saturday Soccer

Damn it was hot!!!

Unfortunately, pictures of the younger goalie in the family didn’t come out very clear.  Same camera, same settings and he’s fuzzy.  His team, playing a much better team, eked out a 1-1 tie.  The older’s team lost 3-2, but his team looks pretty good.  Best thing about it all … I’m not coaching anymore!

Here’s my artistic attempt from the day …

I Switched Sides

Twelve years ago, my little boy started playing soccer.  His little brother joined him a few years later.  I did something I never thought I would — became a soccer coach.  Coach baseball.  Yes.  Soccer — except for playing it during lunch and recess in elementary school, I had no exposure to the sport.  For twelve long years, I’ve toiled along the side lines, learning the game as I taught it to my kids and their teammates.  Almost entirely as an assistant coach because of my aforementioned inexperience.

A few years ago, I grew tired of the demands of coaching.  Keeping 15-18 kids happy.  Keeping their parents happy.  Keeping the other coaches happy.  Plus, although my knowledge of the game grew every year, I felt that as my kids got older and their skills increased, there was a point at which I could no longer be helpful.  To them or their teammates.

The last couple of years I’ve tried to pull away only to get sucked back in.  Both of my boys are goalies.  I’ve sat through enough goalie camps and goalie drills over the years that I learned a lot of drills.  As a result, try as I might to pull away, I kept in the game, willing to work with them and with other goalies.  Drills and coaching them on playing a position that I never played.  I just couldn’t get away.

Well, last spring, my oldest in his never-ending need to leave my control, told me he didn’t want me to coach him any more because he doesn’t want me to have that kind of influence over him.  I didn’t point out to him that, as his father, considering he was still a minor, I had far more influence over him in that capacity regardless of whether I was his coach.  But, I got the message.   I don’t need to coach him any more.

There’s still the youngest, however.  He still wants my involvement.  The problem is, I don’t want it anymore.  I’m done coaching.

I have a new calling.  I have switched sides.  After years of being “one of those coaches” who yells at referees — for the most part, not to an extreme.  Plus, I reserve my yelling for the adult referees and don’t yell at the youth referees.  Well (and, yes, I realize the punctuation of this paragraph is massively screwed up, but, hell, this is my domain), I just officially became a soccer referee.

Yikes!!!  It’ll be interesting, but I’m looking forward to it.  I want to see if I can take the past 12 years of learning the game and see if I can be a good referee.  It’s the next chapter in this part of my life.  The boys are old enough they don’t need me coaching them any more.  Plus, unlike coaching, I actually get paid to be a referee.

 

The Boy Plays Soccer

Here he is….

 

 

Back in January, because of a stupid coach, the youngest midget, broke a bone in his wrist.  Two months of no soccer followed.  He started playing again around the beginning of March.  First on the field for a week or two and then getting back into the goal.  He’s a kid who needs to overcome his fear of the ball and the only way he does is through repetition.  The past few weeks have been, well, he’s done a good job, but I’ve seen the tentativeness and the fear return after a really good year and a half of developing and progressing beyond that.

Last night was a good game for him.  I saw a little bit of confidence in the goal and he’s looking better and better out on the field.  Here’s hoping he can get through a year or two without another injury or incident that reminds him of his fear.

Thoughts on Soccer

The United States played Mexico in the Gold Cup final Saturday night.  When I asked my youngest son if he wanted to watch the game on television, his reply?  “No.  Watching soccer on television is boring.” 

Wow.  This is a kid who lives and breathes soccer.  He began playing when he was five years old.  Like his brother, he also played baseball.  But, when he was seven or eight, after the first baseball game of the season – the one year, I decided to be “the coach” instead of just an assistant in either sport, baseball or soccer – he told me, as we walked to the car after the game, “Dad, I don’t want to play baseball.  I just want to play soccer.”  Seventeen games later his baseball career was over.  Since then, he has played soccer.  Outdoor in the fall.  Indoor in the winter and spring.  Pickup games whenever he can.  Goalie camps at Cosumnes River College and at Sac State.  Soccer has become his year-round passion.

Elk Grove is a small city in which thousands of kids play soccer every fall in recreational leagues throughout the area.  Hundreds more play competitive and select soccer.  At times, local high schools have been nationally ranked.  And yet, a 13-year-old kid who lives and dies for the game says it’s too boring to watch on television.  Instead, he watched Paul Barth, Mall Cop.  Really?  What’s wrong with this picture?

When I was a kid, we played baseball whenever we could and lived for the Saturday game of the week on NBC and Monday Night Baseball on ABC.   A few games of my beloved Giants were shown on a local station during the course of the season.  Now, every game is on television, not just of the local team, but every night there’s a game to watch.  Not just baseball, but basketball, football in the Fall, and so many other sports throughout the year.   The opportunity to watch sports on the television is pervasive and overwhelming.

I actually had nothing to do with soccer until my oldest son signed up to play when he was five years old.  In the eleven years since, a season has not gone by where I haven’t been an assistant coach for one or both of my kids’ teams.  By coaching with those who know and love the game, I’ve also come to know and love the game.  There is a lot about the game that is similar to baseball.  A slow pace that allows a spectator to watch things develop.  It takes time for the offense to produce results.  There is a rhythm and flow and an art to the sport that is absent from fast-paced, relentless sports like basketball, hockey, and football.  Even on television, it can be fascinating to watch the chess match played with a ball.

Here’s my question.  Is it a generational difference?  Our kids are growing up in a world in which there are no limits, in which they can choose from 500 channels, movies on demand, sports channels that show every sport, and they can instantly connect via their smartphone, IPad, or some other device to virtually any entertainment option of their choosing.  Is the ever shortening attention span of our youth a death knell for the kind of game or sport where scoring takes time to develop and where most of the game is played in the muddled middle where “nothing” happens?

Or is it the sport?  Is soccer just never going to catch on in this country as a spectator sport – about as interesting to watch as a chess match?  With the millions who play it, Major League Soccer struggles to draw fans to stadiums in many cities and struggles even more to entice television viewers.  The United States and Mexico in the final of the Gold Cup.  When I was a kid that would have been an event to take the time for.  Not now.  What does it say about a sport that a kid who loves to play the game thinks it’s too boring to watch on television.  Is our fast-paced society genetically immune to the charms of soccer?

All I know is that I watched the soccer game.  For soccer, it was an offensive powerhouse of a game.  Mexico win 4-2, after falling behind 2-0.  The good guys lost, but the artistry and movement of the game came through and was a joy to watch.  Too bad, more people didn’t watch.

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