I volunteered my wife to coach our son’s first-grade soccer team. Yes, I’ve had better ideas, and no, it was not done with cruel intent. It was the opposite: she’s been wanting to get into coaching since she graduated college as a Division II captain of her field hockey team. As a full-time nurse and a fuller-time mother, there was never the time, never the time. So I was being thoughtful.
For the first month I regretted my thoughtfulness. Working four ten-hour shifts plus obligatory call that can derail any planning or expectations of routine, she’s been staying up til midnight, surely unable to focus on the blur of semicircles and rectangles on her soccer diagrams. She studied: weekends with Google and copious print outs of Xs and Os; a library bag full of books like The Practical Guide to Youth Soccer Coaching and The Confident Coach’s Guide to Teaching Youth Soccer (those are the only two keepers worthy of renewal); she even rented instructional movies guised as entertainment, films so embarrassing that even the kids asked to turn it off. Each week she devotes hours of prep time for the one hour of practice and 45 minutes of game time each week. She bought cones and goals, water coolers and snacks, and she sends bi-weekly emails to the seven other parents breaking down practice pointers and lauding gameday individual and team accomplishments. It’s fucking nuts. Other parents—other coaches—are satisfied by showing up.
And since she has practice on the one day she’s home—the one day I’m at work—and since the gametimes overlap with our daughter’s soccer games, The Coach pretty much does it on her own. One team had four or five dads running drills before kick off, and the team played like they’ve been together since diapers. She didn’t know any of our son’s teammates, but her sideline is full of mothers filling cups, lacing cleats, heating bodies, cheering loudly, and most of all, praising the Coach.
On Saturday, three weeks of prep and experience paid off with the first victory of her young coaching career. For the rest of the weekend, there was a glow in her eyes, an easier smile, a skip in her step. Winning was nice—it always is—but the remarkable occurrence was how much these six-year olds had learned in such a brief time. They knew their zones, knew when to look for the pass or the shot, knew when to charge and when to fall back on defense. In the email that followed, the Coach identified how each player had improved and contributed, same as she had done after the previous two losses. The mothers have been effusive, and the kids are buying into what the Coach is selling.
“I want to play soccer every day,” our son said later that day, unsolicited and unprompted. “You know how much better I’ll get? Wanna play?”