Roll out the balls and get ready for some wind sprints — Coach Ryan is taking the field.
OK, that might be a tad bit aggressive. I’m not sure my group of kindergartners need me to go all Woody Hayes on them this spring.
Youth soccer season has started up, and for the first year, Anthony is going to play. He’s a sports nut, and while we wanted to get him involved in sports prior to this, the pandemic and other barriers kept us from signing him up.
But this seemed like the right time for him to start. He likes to watch soccer on TV with me, and we’ve had some epic one-on-one matches in the backyard.
While the focus on who could net the most goals, it also allowed me to sneakily teach some of the basics of the sport — how to dribble the ball, what to do with your hands, how to switch between feet without losing the ball.
As Anthony got more comfortable, we felt better about signing him up for the youth league. Through he was nervous at first, his excitement has built over the past few weeks — aided by the information that we’d have to buy him proper soccer gear before the season started.
We took a Saturday trip to the sporting goods store to pick out cleats, shin guards and a youth-sized ball. I was apprehensive; past shoe shopping excursions could be described as hours-long slogs through styles, fit and opinions from a 6 year old.
But he immediately found a pair of bright blue Adidas — his favorite color — that worked nicely. He found matching blue shin guards and a ball, and suddenly Anthony was a color-coordinated soccer machine.
So we were all ready to go. Until a few weeks ago, when we received a desperate email from league organizers begging for volunteer coaches.
I had never considered coaching. Not only had I never coached or worked with kids, but I had not played soccer myself since running around with the Orange Crush when I was in first grade.
Still, if my son and all of the other young players were going to have a good experience, they needed adults to step up and help. I offered my time, adding that it may be best as I’m placed with another couple coaches who know what they’re doing.
The past week has comprised of back-and-forth emails with my fellow coaches, introducing ourselves and reaching out to the members of our team about practices, equipment and other details in advance of the first practice.
I’ve been studying basic drills and concepts that are appropriate for kindergarten kids. Our practices are likely going to include a lot of Sharks and Minnows and Cone Chase drills, plus just letting them play a little four-on-four.
In a way, Anthony and I are anticipating the season in the same way. We’re both starting something that we’ve never done before and meeting new people. That can be intimidating, but at the same time it’s an exciting chance to learn and grow. Anthony is nervous about his first practice, but it likely helps that his dad will be there on field with him.
So we’re all ready to play. The only thing I still need to get is a whistle — for leading all of those wind sprints.