Soccer Drama

As I tuck her into bed Friday night, J asks, “Mom, can I please not go to the soccer game tomorrow?”

I understand where J’s coming from, here. Monday to Friday is school, Sunday is church, and Saturdays, J is dragged along to M’s 8:30 am soccer game. Tomorrow it’s likely to be worse than usual, chilly and rainy. “Oh, sweetheart,” I say, “I don’t want to miss the game, and Daddy has to coach, and I just don’t feel comfortable leaving you home alone for that long.”

Silent treatment.

“Just think,” I say, trying to buck her up, “later this winter, we’ll be dragging M along to your gymnastics meets.” J and the girls from her gym are supposed to start competing in January or February.

This argument does nothing for J. “But, that’s not fair!” she insists. “At least M will have something to watch!”

This makes me laugh out loud. “Umm, honey? That’s what we do at the soccer games. We watch the soccer game. You could watch the soccer game, too.”

“But it’s so boooorrrinng,” she whisper-wails. “Watching gymnastics isn’t boring like watching a soccer game is boring!”

I kind of agree, but I have to defend the Team Soccer half of the family. “I think that if they didn’t have a family member doing gymnastics, M and your Dad would probably rather watch soccer than watch gymnastics.” J looks as if I’ve just told her that she’ll be growing a tail during puberty: baffled and only able to stave off horror with profound disbelief. She’s speechless. I give her a last kiss good-night.

Morning comes, just as cold, wet, and miserable as anticipated. As M ties on her cleats I realize that the next-door neighbors will be manning their garage sale all day. Lucky for all of us, they are happy to supervise a new sales associate.

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Yes, Cute W is coaching again this season, and they got off to a bit of a rocky start. M loves having Cute W coach because he’s fun and he knows soccer. Many volunteer coaches in town offer to coach even though they’re not so into soccer. This is admirable, because they always, always need more coaches. But it’s also great to have a coach who’s really into soccer. This season Cute W decided he was going to do something new: teach the kids some footwork drills early on and encourage them to drill them at home. He was pretty excited about the idea as he and M headed out to one of the first team practices. An hour and a half later they were home and with their arrival the entire house was enshrouded in a black cloud. Both of them looked half ready to cry and half ready to kick some furniture over. I missed the practice itself, but the gist I got was that Cute W’s footwork drills took longer than expected. The practice was not the usual fun-fest to which M had become accustomed. Some of the members of the team were pains in the butt, and the coach’s daughter, who is expected to be a good role model, was not a particularly good role model. Three-quarters in, Cute W knew that he and the entire team were miserable, but the tasks had to be finished or any coaching credibility would be lost for the season. Meanwhile M was despairing that her super-cool coach had become lame. By the time they got home, Cute W was ready to quit coaching for fear that he’d ruin M’s soccer experience. M, meanwhile, was thrust into despair at the notion of any other possible coach besides Cute W. M spent quite a bit of time sobbing in her room. Cute W sent out an email to parents swearing (again–he’d done so before, during, and after the footwork drills) that future practices would be different. He also produced a footwork video for kids who wanted to try footwork drills at home, insisting that they were optional only.

This happened weeks ago, and I only watched the video yesterday. The whole episode was a little traumatic, so I needed a cooling-off period first. When I finally watched it, I couldn’t stop smiling because damn, that guy is cute! And also an excellent and devoted coach.

At our house, we followed Coach W’s advice and didn’t force M to do footwork drills. Instead, Cute W said that he’d go out and do them all by himself. Of course M joined him, and since then they’ve been doing them fairly regularly. Of course, it’s wreaking havoc on our yard:

But it’s become this lovely bonding time for the two of them. So sweet. And the whole team’s doing well, too.

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Meanwhile, we’re also gearing up for “travel,” which basically means playing through the winter months through our local town club. Last week M finally (finally!) got the results back from the supposed-to-be-informal-and-don’t-mean-anything soccer tryouts for the club.  The whole tryouts thing was pretty frustrating. In the past, kids M’s age attended tryouts and while everyone was welcome to play, they were placed on either an “A” or a “B” team. M did soccer with the club for the first time last year and was a bit bummed to be designated B, but she dealt with it.

This year, the plan was to have all the kids practice together for several months, and then they’d divide up into teams in January or February. There were still two tryouts a month ago (remember how M was stressing out about them?), and while most parents were wondering why we were bothering to have tryouts if the kids were sticking together, we schlepped the kids to tryouts, anyway, for fear of doing something to Harm Our Children’s Opportunities for Success.

Then, at the tryout, a coach told M that they were choosing A and B teams to start out, and he’d be letting them know “soon.” Nobody ever actually told me. There was no, like, global informative email sent to the many parents involved with the revised plan. There was only the promise of a future email, one that the coach told M would be arriving with team assignments.

Poor M kept asking me for an email update. A week after the tryouts, M started ranting.

“He said he’d let us know ‘soon’!” M said. “Do you think that a week is ‘soon’?” She sure didn’t. M repeated that line frequently, gradually substituting first two weeks, then three weeks, etc., and last Saturday, when I was on the town soccer fields, I found M’s club soccer coach from last year and asked him, when, oh please,  would we hear? He pointed me toward some other coach, and I had to go talk to him, because I did not want to be one of those stage mom (field mom?) parents who insists that her child is brilliant and talented and must be on the top level of everything because I want to live vicariously through my child, and now that she’s exactly like the girls I always wished I were (see previous post), this was my big chance!

I ended up going with something like, “Hi, I’m Katie, M’s mother, and I’m hoping that you can please put these kids out of their misery and let them know about their teams?”

He said he’d send out the email “today,” and when I reported back to M, we both agreed that the chances were good for hearing within a week. We were surprised to actually receive an email that day, and M was thrilled to make the A team.

But the sense I get is that they’ll be shuffling kids around, anyway.  Which means that M–and most of her friends–could easily be reassigned. So that this joy could turn to heartbreak later, and the friends who are sad to be on B now could end up switching as they improve. You know what that means, right? More soccer drama in our future.





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