I coached soccer this spring. For a mixed team of 5 & 6 year olds.
Here’s what I was afraid of, in the beginning:
-The kids would hate me.
-I would hate the kids.
-The parents would not get my sense of humor.
-The kids AND the parents would realize I was a complete klutz.
-I would fall down/trip/wipe out.
-The other coaches would catch on that I knew nothing.
-The parents would expect little David Beckhams,
and Mia Hamms,
when the best I could hope to deliver would be The Bad News Bears (whom I realize played baseball, but you see what I’m getting at).
-I would start to dread soccer nights, praying for rain.
Here’s what happened, instead:
-The kids seemed to like me. When I see them at the playground, even now, they come up to me, call me “Coach”, want to talk to me.
-At the start of every new shift, I got 3 new kids out on the field, and every one of them was grinning ear to ear, ready to go, excited.
-Very few parents actually had anything negative to say. The comments ran more towards, “You are a good, good woman for doing this.”
-I laughed my ass off. At the kid who scored a goal, but inadvertently hit the other team’s goalie in the package, inhaled sharply, and said, “Oooh! Right in the hot dog!”. Or the kid who played a whole shift peeking out from beneath his dad’s jacket, because he didn’t want to get rained on.
-I watched the most competitive kids discover the art of passing to their team mates, and give up scoring opportunities, just to keep passing.
-I realized that the definition of a good soccer season was different for every single kid. The kid whose favorite part of the game was sitting on the team blanket? Had as great a season as the kid who liked scoring.
The biggest reward of the season came out of my biggest insecurity, though.
I have no killer instinct. No competitive drive, in matters physical.
I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to impart sense of competition to these kids. Because I know that competition is important. It’s how we get shit done.
But it turns out that on a beautiful spring night, when you’re 5 or 6, and your parents are cheering, and you’re running, and grinning, and eating watermeleon, and shaking hands at the end of the game,
competition just isn’t the most important thing.