Soccer Anyone?

You never know what to expect when you sign your grandchild up to play sports. Of course, as grandparents, we always attend the games. The world’s most enthusiastic fans, that’s us.

Mary Ellen isn’t yet into the highly competitive school-based sports or the clubs. We’re still at the “let’s find a volunteer coach and have fun” stage. But I was a bit surprised to get a call last week asking if I would coach soccer.

I have seen two live, competitive soccer games in my life. The first was many years ago in Dallas when the sport was just getting started professionally in the United States. Pele, who was billed as the greatest athlete in the world, played with the opposing team. I twisted a friend’s arm, got two tickets, and saw the game. Although I knew nothing about the rules, it was obvious he was better than everyone else on the field. Then in 1996, I saw the gold-medal Olympic game. A young boy sitting next to me explained why everyone was mad at the referees. I even tried to play once—for fifteen minutes—before realizing I was allergic to the grass we played on and nearly collapsing from asthma.

Back to the phone call. After I finished laughing, I told the lady on the phone, Gail, I would try to find someone. In the meantime, I told Mary Ellen that her team had no coach. She cried. I asked if it would embarrass her if I coached. (I used that term lightly.) She thought a minute, then said, “No, but I’ll need to teach you everything.”

In the meantime, I contacted her wonderful second-grade teacher whose daughter is a high school player. Since she’s around soccer fans, I thought she might know a potential volunteer. She got three or four girls to help and said, “Do you want to put the team in your name or mine.” Wow!

I called to tell Gail that the team had a coach, but a father looking for a team for his daughter had volunteered that day. I must admit I was a little disappointed. Coaching soccer might have been kind of fun—especially with some high school players there to do the real work.