Friday, February 20, 2009

Coach Busy-Dad-E

It seems not so long ago that I was playing YMCA youth soccer and biddy basketball, and Little League baseball.

Now it’s Big Brother’s turn.

He starts YMCA soccer next month, the whole family is pretty excited. We’ve already bought him some shin guards, soccer cleats, and a youth soccer ball. He’s had fun running around the yard in his “gear” (and even kicking the ball a time or two), which brings me a smile that warms my heart.

I’m excited about re-living this part of my childhood, about which I have very fond memories, vicariously through Big Brother.

I can remember my dad volunteering as an assistant coach for soccer, coach for basketball, and keeping official score for baseball.

Just last week, I got an email from the YMCA saying that they were in need of a coach and parents to help with the team. And so, I wrote back, saying “I’m happy to help as a parent assistant, but I can’t be the coach (I work full-time, travel to meetings periodically, etc.)”

The response comes back: “I will put you down as one of the coaches. For this age group we like to get all the parents involved during the season to keep it organized and structured, so there really isn't just one coach. I will be having a coaches meeting towards the end of next week. If you could make it and be the team representative that would be great.”

Okay, apparently none of the other Dad-E’s or Mom-E’s stepped up, and I’ve now been promoted to “Coach”.

Wow, talk about life coming full-circle (and feeling a little old, too). Don’t let it bite you on the back-side when it comes around!

While I’m excited, I’m also terrified. I haven’t played soccer since I was 10, not to mention coached anything.

In fact, the peak of my athletic career was as a Little League pitcher at age 12. At that point, I pretty much stopped growing, (most) everyone else didn’t, and physically I started getting left in the dust. By 10th grade, it boiled down a decision between riding the bench all season versus doing something else with my time.

And that brings me to my rant for today. I love sports, but our society has gotten completely out of control with it. I’m not even talking about the pro’s, but the youth level.

Sports are great for kids because it promotes values such as physical activity/fitness, team work, commitment, and discipline. Not to mention sports are just plain fun for them (and the parents who are watching).

We all have great stories about youth sports, like the kid who hits the baseball and starts running the bases backwards, or the kid who picks his nose/plays with dirt/picks flowers out in right field, or a huddle of kids all trying to kick a soccer ball (when the ball left the pile ages ago).

However, we’re at risk of losing the pure fun of youth sports. At earlier and earlier ages, the kids who are pretty good at a given sport start getting recruited for “travelling teams”, or summer leagues, or spring ball, or whatever. They often focus on playing one sport—year round. The ultimate goal of this seems to be to prepare kids to play Division I college athletics.

Fictitious example: “Johnny can’t play soccer this year because he has to play AAU basketball.” The problem is that Johnny is only 7 years old. Johnny shouldn’t have to decide between two sports (or a sport and a musical instrument or drama club or whatever for that matter). He should be playing and exploring (and having fun being a kid) while he can. He shouldn’t be required to “specialize” at his age.

I once missed part of a high school basketball practice to attend an after-school English honors program. The coach asked me “What are you going to do about English honors when we’re getting ready to play team X (big rival)?”

“What do you think I’m going to do?” I thought. “I’m going to go to English Honors. Do you realize that you’re a teacher, and you just accosted me about putting academics ahead of an extracurricular activity?” Unlike a large segment of society, I realized MY SPORTS CAREER WILL SOMEDAY COME TO AN END, AND THEN I HAVE TO FALL BACK ON MY BRAIN/SCHOOL. This even happens to some professional athletes who have a career-ending injury.

Okay, I’m putting the cart before the horse here. Big Brother hasn’t even officially started soccer. I’m getting carried away. I just vow not be be one of those "win-at-all-costs" fanatical sports parents. For now, we’re just going to go out there and kick the soccer ball around and have a good time. I just want him to have fun without being pressured.

And so, I leave you with Busy-Dad-E’s rules of coaching:
1. Have fun
2. Be a good sport
3. Always do your best
4. The rest is just details

Have a good weekend,


  1. I'm pretty sure that is one area I will lose it as a parent. Not in pressuring my kid, but in losing it on a coach that thinks my kid is going to be a pro whatever sport player.

    I'm with you, childhood is for having fun and finding out your interests. Kids should have opportunities to be in whatever they want so they can know whether or not they actually enjoy it or are good at it. But it's not really my choice as to what those things are, I'm here more as a guidance.

    Of course, we still haven't given birth, so things may change once that happens :)

  2. Thanks for the reply, Fezzic. I think your "gut" is right-on. As far as I'm concerned, you're a dad the moment you find out you're expecting. It's amazing how the little one can influence the thoughts and actions of so many adults while still in utero. Enjoy the weekend, Busy-Dad-E.

  3. Oh, I am super excited that big brother is going to be playing soccer. That sounds like so much fun and you must be so proud; win or lose your child will remember your time and effort put forth in coaching his sweet little team. Playing a sport is a great outlet and a great bonding time for you both. Now, go out there and have a blast!

  4. Thanks, Rosi. I think it'll be loads of fun. I can't wait to see a bunch of screaming 4 year-old's running around kicking a ball. They'll have a blast.

  5. Yay for soccer! And of course since I have a degree in exercise....I love seeing kids out playing for FUN but getting exercise too!