Tuesday, March 30, 2010

two don'ts

Soccer practice today was an easy one. Practice tends to start with the kids passing the ball. We don't all arrive at the exact same time, and of course I usually try to be there early. I need to set the field up both with whatever cones I'll need as well as doing the pencil check.

The field we are currently using is just a big, mostly crappy rectangle of mostly grass and pencils and is part of a local middle school. As kids walk across the grass to and from school they lose a variety of items. I do sometimes find a pen, but for the most part I can count on finding five to ten pencils, most of them broken.

As my team slowly arrives around and about the start time they've learned to just go ahead and start passing the ball as we wait for me to actually start practice. Often they will tend to pair up, and often I'll put them in pairs or groups.

Big Brother and I were running late which means we arrived at five instead of ten till. There was one of my team on the field with his dad and younger brother, and between the three of them they were passing both a soccer ball and a football. Another player was in his car and came to the field as I arrived while a fourth player also soon arrived.

I knew this would be a lightly attended practice. The local kids are out of school on spring break, and it's the week before Easter. We don't even have a game this weekend. As I've done in the past I told the families that I'd be willing to have practice but knew not to expect them all. One kid's mom already told me he'd be at the beach.

So four kids out of twelve and one coach. We spent half of practice just passing the ball between each other in a big circle. I did my best to NOT coach as part of an idea I had for practice. It's arugable that more kids finding the joy in simply passing the soccer ball would increase soccer enjoyment in the US and would then lead to better plays in the US, and no I don't think it's a bit of a stretch, but it's also not why we're here right now. We were all finally thirsty, and when the water break turned into sitting around for an extra five minutes I let it. I picked one of the four team to play with me, and the rest of the practice was just playing soccer, me and the kid versus the other three kids. I told them specifically that it wasn't a scrimmage in fact, and I continued to do my best not to coach. My goal for today was to have fun playing soccer, and none of the kids really wanted to go when I told them we were don't, but I knew their parents were ready.

And now we get to the title of this post, two don'ts. When you are thirty seven, you really need to adjust how you play any sport with kids. If you are in good physical shape then you shouldn't really play your hardest. You need to dial it back a bit. When you are in less than good physical shape you might still want to ease up. In one instance it's not fair to the kids, and in the other you wind up nearly killing yourself.

I imagine we all know about kicking a soccer ball, but for those that don't there's one basic fact you should know. You do not kick with your toe. I would wager that most sports with any amount of kicking involved don't actually involve the toe in direct contact and for a variety of reasons. One reason is that it hurts your toe, and my toe hurts.

I do know how to kick a ball, but in my defense I was doing the other don't, and so I probably deserved the bit of toe pain.

A slide tackle is a desperation move, and in one of today's rare coaching moments I used my own bit of breaking a rule to explain to them the idea of a slide tackle as desperate and a last resort. What I didn't discuss with them is the idea of not slide tackling when you're the coach and supposed to be coaching and not slide tackling.

I let myself get a little too involved. It was all fun of course, and I didn't actually slide tackle a player. I and the ball were well ahead of him, and my team mate was open. What should have been a quick and neat move turned out really poorly. I hit the ground and didn't slide, landing on my calf and knee. The foot that was supposed to gracefully come around and contact the ball with the top ended up going straight on, toe first. The ball was moving pretty quickly as my momentum brought me into contact.

The wound is slight and won't effect anything, and I accept that it's entirely a product of poor decision making. The take away message, above and beyond the two don'ts, might be knowing when to dial it back. There's never a reason to not do your best, but there are valid reasons sometimes to not play your hardest.