Both of my daughters are gifted in many areas. They are talented dancers, singers, students and master throwers of clothing on the floor. However, when it comes to competitive sports, their genetic code was mangled because they could care less about winning and sometimes even participating in team sports.
“Why would I play soccer at recess when I could be writing musicals and choreographing my backup dancers?” I can imagine those words coming out of either girl.
So at the end of summer, when I asked my youngest if there was something new she wanted to try in the fall, her answer was the last thing I expected. Even a root canal or mammogram would have surprised me less.
“Hmm, I think I’ll try soccer,” she said, without missing a beat.
I inhaled one of those deep “parent breaths” so my next phrase would sound positive and supportive. “Really? That sounds like fun!”
Now the problem with this is, in our area, soccer is a competitive sport. Hard core.
Most young athletes start playing in preschool and diligently progress through grade school. My daughter was going into fourth grade without any experience or knowledge. (She did play “soccer” in kindergarten, but it was more like herding kittens; plus, halfway through the season, my funny girl decided she was her team’s mascot, “Magic Hatton.” I kid you not!)
Now I didn’t want to burst my child’s sports bubble by telling her she’d be horribly behind, but I hated to see her disappointment at the first practice. So I signed her up and told her with lots of practice and teamwork, she would have a great time and maybe meet some new girls from another school since no one at her school was playing recreational soccer anymore.
My youngest is self-assured and has never met a stranger. She is my actress, comedian, and according to one principal of her school, she’s the social director of the student body. So I wasn’t worried about her not getting along with new teammates.
First practice, she sidled up and began learning the difference between a ball and shin guards. Thanks to her coach.
I’m not trying to suck up to the coach so my girl will get more game time. In fact on many game days, my opinionated daughter spouts her dislike of the sport and begs to get back into acting classes. But here lies the dilemma. This coach is amazing. Not only does he know and love the sport, but he also deals with these tween girls better than Judy Blume would.
Coach notices when a girl gets a side cramp and needs to be pulled out. If an asthmatic is struggling, he has a signal the girl is instructed to do. Heck, I know men who for weeks hadn’t noticed that I changed my hair color and had five inches cut off.
So when my daughter decided to do something embarrassing, in hopes of getting yanked out of soccer, I insisted she write an apology letter to the coach. My creative gal wrote a beautiful letter, full of kindness, raw emotion and remorse. She’s a keeper!
The next week, her coach hand wrote a note that I told her she should keep with her all the way through college. We might need to laminate it. His advice was simple and I’m paraphrasing: she should never give up; believe in herself and “it takes a lot of practice, confidence and failure to learn a lot of things in life.” How many adults get that type of life coaching…ever?
I’m sad my daughter will not be doing soccer next semester. I think she’s progressing well and when she puts her heart into it, she’s fun to watch. But to be honest, I’m more disappointed she will not have “Coach” in her life.
These types of life coaches are rare to find. I’m thrilled she had the opportunity to learn from him and will be able to take away his sage advice.
And even better, she’ll have his laminated letter to look back on for years to come.
Cheers to all the excellent coaches and teachers in this world. You make a huge difference!
(previously published in The Kansas City Star on Sept. 26, 2016)