Earlier this spring, I wrapped up coaching my nine--year-old son Dominic’s outdoor soccer season. He was among a dozen boys on a third and fourth grade squad sponsored by Jim’s Auto Service.
The team name? Well, that was certainly up for debate...The Corona Lions could be heard a few times as we grouped together for a brief huddle after a game.
What do I know about soccer? Simple, there are two rules: Kick the ball and don’t use your hands (Well, unless you’re the goalie, or the ball goes out of bounds and you’re executing a throw-in). Sure, there are more complex rules but defining off-sides and determining a foul aren’t a necessity early on.
In terms of experience, I don’t bring a stellar amount of it. High school soccer wasn’t implemented until well after I graduated PHS in 2000. I played a few years in the Perryville Optimist Soccer League more than 25 years ago.
It was an opportunity to compete. That’s all a kid can really ask for and expect. Oh, I had a few saves here and there during a brief stint as goalie. I scored a goal in a monsoon at what was then the new soccer field (now used for the Perryville Youth Football League) next to Huber Road.
Other than those few years spent on an organized team, my playing experience amounted to just practicing in the backyard, or a week or two during a physical education class in school. My dad and younger sister both played collegiately, so there’s that.
Fast forward to March 2021. There wasn’t much time for practice before the season began. We had one mid-week practice session of a little more than an hour before it got dark. That’s spring weather in southeast Missouri. It’s sunny and 65 one day and rainy, muddy, in the 40s and the fields are unavailable two days later.
This year, the first game was way back on March 23 at Field 10 over at the Bank of Missouri Soccer Complex.
For the most part, the boys played aggressive in their goldenrod jerseys, and didn’t complain too much about what position they were on the field.
There are no scoreboards, but those on the team are always keeping track. In the back of their mind, they know it’s 2-0 at halftime and our team has had 10 shots on goal to the opponent’s two. They know who wins and loses. Always.
The most challenging aspect of the coaching experience was figuring out a synchronized substitution pattern.
“Coach, can I play fullback?”
“Can I go in for...?”
“Coach, can I play forward?”
“I want to sub in for...”
“Coach, can I play goalie?”
The chance to play is better than the alternative: not having a soccer league at all or having the entire season cancelled like in spring 2020.
What I do hope to instill is an enjoyment of the game, a willingness to be coachable and an opportunity to learn.
Nothing beats the excitement of seeing the team rally together after scoring a goal, especially if it involved a little teamwork, such as a timely pass or two. Or, watching the goalie make a save with the game on the line. It’s a moment to celebrate accomplishment, even if the end result isn’t always what the boys envisioned.
Daniel Winningham is the managing editor of the Republic-Monitor. He may be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 573-547-4567.