Last week, I began my new career as a 5- and 6-year-old soccer coach.
This is a stunning achievement, given that I have never played soccer in my entire life.
I've also never watched a soccer game in my entire life. If given a choice between a World Cup Soccer Game or attending a ballet, I'd choose the ballet. If given a choice between a ballet and slamming my head in a car door, I'd choose the car door. But, at least at the ballet one can view scantily clad women twirling about.
I did not mean to become a coach. I filled out the kids' sign-up form, thinking I was signing them up for T-ball. They had a blank to check if you'd like to help coach.
Next thing I know, I'm at the Albany YMCA on a Saturday morning barking out instructions of great wisdom like: "Kick it in the goal," "Don't touch it with your hands" and "Don't wee-wee on the field."
We played a Catholic school, which must be doing pretty well judging by the size of the kids. Now I know how Ric Flair felt when he fought Andre the Giant.
My kids looked like they'd never seen a soccer ball in their life, which before last week, come to think of it, was true.
I think I saw the other team in the elimination round at the Winter Olympics. The other team would take off past our kids, kicking the ball toward our goal, as our kids gleefully followed behind, all but cheering them on as the freshman from Notre Dame booted another ball into the goal.
I don't know much about soccer, but I thought it was a low-scoring game.
It was 6-0 before I could say, "Son, please pull your pants back up and quit laying in the goal's net."
Our team is composed of five girls and two boys, two of whom are my 6-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. I guess an early sign of things to come occurred about two minutes into the game when my son looked up at me and said, "Are we about done? Is it about over?"
Well, we weren't about done, but, yes, it was about over.
I should have been able to read the signs in the tea leaves. I am actually only an assistant coach, along with one of the other children's dad. Our head coach mysteriously had to play in a golf tournament on Saturday, leaving the two assistant coaches to lead the charge. That's sort of like Custer announcing the night before Little Big Horn that he needs to finish some paperwork back at the command post and asking his lieutenants to take over for a day or two.
Come to think of it, Custer had a better showing.
Youth soccer is a strange phenomenon. On most occasions, all of the kids end up in a wad near the middle of the field as the ball just sort of meanders among the feet. The entire glob of kids then snakes back and forth across the field in no particular direction, with the occasional child spurting out of the pile to get a snack on the sidelines, stare up at the sky or to destroy a nearby ant bed. The ball is generally kicked in whichever direction the child is facing at the time the ball nears their foot.
Well, we've now had a chance to have another practice and anticipate a full team for the remainder of the schedule, including the head coach. I still have high hopes for a turn around.
I hope I make it through the season, but boy it's tough slamming my head in the car door at the end of every quarter.
Contact columnist T. Gamble at firstname.lastname@example.org.