that moment

Photo by gogoboy

“OK guys – who can tell me the only player who is allowed to touch the ball with their hands?”

“The coach?”

Ah, the joys of coaching kindergarteners. Tuesday was my first practice coaching Matthew’s soccer team. (Posting a few days late due to a little plumbing incident that occurred when I arrived home from practice…) This is my second foray into our town’s youth sports coaching ranks, my first being t-ball this past spring, so I had some idea of what to expect. I learned quickly that goal number one of coaching young boys is to simply control the chaos. Playing in the dirt, throwing grass and lying down in the middle of the field are inevitable parts of the game at this stage. In t-ball, we spent most of our first few games trying to prevent all 10 boys from converging in the middle of the field in a giant scrum chasing after the ball. First base, third base, outfield – wherever – a slow dribbler in front of the plate was fair game for all – and they were all coming for it. The problem with t-ball is that only a couple players in the game are actively doing anything, which spells trouble for 5-year-olds.
Soccer, I remembered from my own days as a kid spending countless Saturday mornings in our town’s police athletic league, moves a bit faster. What surprised me here was the ferocity of these little guys. I’d forgotten about the inherent potential for soccer to become a contact sport. With skilled players, that contact comes in momentary bursts at key points in the game. For kindergarteners, it’s a constant battle of seven sweaty energy balls pounding each other’s shin guards and knocking one another over with body checking that would make a hockey coach proud. In our short scrimmage at the end of practice, the bodies were flying, everyone rushing at the ball with great abandon. As coach, I quickly tried to swoop in and keep some poor lad from being trampled. Who exactly thought it was a good idea to arm seven little boys’ shoes with plastic spikes on the bottom? Thankfully the field’s grass hadn’t been cut in about 3 weeks, so it cushioned the falls a bit. At some point in the near future, I’ll start moving them toward positions and spreading out, but for tonight, chaos reigned and we considered it a success that there was only one case of tears and no broken limbs.
Copyright 2009 Steven K. Smith &
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