When my two oldest boys were younger and playing soccer, I volunteered to be one of the coaches. I enjoyed it, my boys liked having me coach, and it went pretty well. But by the time my middle son Johnny decided he had had enough of soccer, I was relieved to hang up my spikes. I wasn’t getting any younger, and it was taking a lot out of me.
Then came Sean.
At an early age Sean exhibited some skills in the sport, so I had him try out for a travel soccer team. When he made the team, I was relieved. I figured that he would be playing at a more competitive level, and that my coaching services would no longer be needed. But Sean felt like he had been cheated. He often mentioned that it wasn’t fair that his brothers got me as a coach, but he didn’t.
You can see where this is going, can’t you?
When his travel coach stepped down after two years of coaching, and the team was looking for someone else to step up, I patiently waited for a few months, hoping that somebody else would magically emerge to take over the team. When no-one did, I made the leap.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
It turns out that the rules have changed a little bit over the past ten years. In order to be a coach for travel soccer now, you need to get an E-license. In order to get an E-license, you need to take a 20-hour course. I took that course this past weekend, and there’s a good chance I’ll never walk again. You see, I’m no longer in my late 30s, I’m now in my late 40s. And this course was not a classroom course, it was a “let’s go out on the field and do drills and play soccer” course.
In the 95 degree heat.
There were about forty potential coaches in the group, ranging in age from early 20s to late 40s. It’s one thing to do drills against other coaches…it’s another thing to do them against coaches that are twenty five years younger than you are. In the first drill, we played a little 3 v 3 game, and I slipped and fell–tearing up the skin on my knee. In the second drill, I played against some 20-somethings, and realized something about myself.
Apparently my brain is no longer connected to my legs.
The ball would come to me, and my instincts would know what to do. “OK, I’ll trap it, and turn this way to get around the defender.” But my legs looked up at me and said something completely different. They said, “Hey, we’re comfy right here.” These young pups were running circles around me.
It was humbling. We spent a total of about fifteen hours outside doing drills and playing soccer in that unbearable heat. I was slow, I was sore, and I was really feeling my age. I seriously considered not showing up for the second day, because I was worried I might die.
But I sucked it up and limped out to the field for day two, and something amazing happened. I suddenly started doing much better. My legs were still a little defiant about helping out (oh boy, were my soccer-damaged knees barking), but the rest of me figured out ways to contribute.
At one point, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, but at one point I realized that I was even enjoying myself. I remembered why I loved the game. I also learned a ton about coaching techniques that I never knew before. And I probably lost ten pounds in the heat.
Now, I’m really looking forward to the season, and I’m looking forward to standing on the sidelines during the games.
If I can ever walk again.