|My son (far right) and his soccer all-star team.|
I'm not used to just watching.
For the past five years, my son has played soccer, and for each of those five years, I've volunteered to be his coach. The first two seasons I didn't really give him a choice about it. After all, I'd played organized soccer for about 14 years, all through high school and on travel teams so I figure it's one of the few actual skills I possess so I need to volunteer my time to teach kids how to play.
After he turned six, I asked him before each season if he wanted me to coach and each year, he said yes. this past season, he moved up to the eight and nine-year old kids, which meant for the first time they officially kept score and had a league champion. Through my expert coaching (and a little luck with the draft to start the season), we were able to go 6-0-2 and win the league.
I had a blast coaching and seeing the kids on my team around town and having them say "hi Coach Luke" is still really cool.
That's where our story begins.
Because about two-thirds of the way through the season, they had tryouts for the all-star team that would compete in the district tournament. I'm obviously biased, but my son is pretty good and he ended up making the team. Awesome, right?
Well, yes, awesome.
But for the first time, I wasn't the one running practice. I didn't get to be out on the field running around and teaching the kids what I know about the game. I wasn't the one hearing about their day or giving high fives after good plays or encouraging and correcting them after they made mistakes.
Instead I was forced, for the first time, to watch from the sidelines with the other parents. And forced is probably the right word there.
I'm not good soccer parent. I'm not bad mind you, but I do far more coaching from the parents' sideline than I should. I wanted to position the players, move them up or back and basically do all the things I'd been doing since my son started playing.
For the first time in my son's soccer-playing life, that wasn't my role. My role was to cheer and be encouraging and be supportive of the coach. And his coach was really good. I could see noticeable improvement from the players on the team over the three weeks they played together.
And standing on the sidelines during practice was actually a lot of fun as I got to hang out with the other parents.
But the games.
The games are a different story. It's a whole different level of stress. One of their scrimmage games ended in a tie and the teams went to penalty kicks. Fortunately for me, my son didn't take one of the kicks, but I was standing next to the parent of a son who did and he was, by far, much more anxious and nervous than his son, who had his shot blocked.
After their three weeks of practice and five scrimmage games, the team finally played the first-round of the district tournament last night. The game was about 80 miles away, so I got off work early, got my son (my wife was out of town at a conference) and we drove up to the game. I was anxious and getting frustrated with the traffic as I wanted to make sure we were on time and he was able to warm up.
He was in the back seat playing Minecraft and basically as calm as something that's really calm. (I'm not good with similes.)
We get there and warm up and the game begins and to start out, I'm sitting in my chair next to one of the other parents (who was also a coach) and we both have a lot nervous energy. Eventually we stand up and start pacing and cheering while, perhaps, doing a bit more coaching than we should.
At one point I turned around to one of the moms behind me and told her to whack me across the shoulders if I started coaching too much. She laughed and said I wasn't as bad ad her husband yet so I had nothing to worry about. I laughed and, jokingly, said that was the point. I don't want to get as bad as her husband.
Ultimately our team lost 3-0. While the kids were disappointed, I think some of the parents took the loss harder. I know I did. Not because I think I could have done a better job coaching (far from it), but because despite my struggles of being a cheering parent rather than an involved coach I really enjoyed just watching and cheering. I wasn't trying to juggle playing time or to figure out the best alignment to help us win. I could cheer and watch and enjoy (as best I could) the game.
I'll miss it and I'll miss soccer season. But we're going to play disc golf on Saturday and on Tuesday we find out what basketball team he's on and we move on to the next sport. One that I know far less about and I don't have the impulse to try to coach. I can be a cheering parent and I'm looking forward to it.