Part 3: I'm no Ted Lasso, but I can tie shoes
On a team, everybody does their part. Including when it's time to become a coach.
This fall has offered a return to sports and a sporty side of myself that I hadn’t forgotten about but I’d missed dearly.
All week, I’ve been sharing posts with different perspectives on what this revival of my inner athlete has felt like.
Today’s final installment is about my coaching debut, which came much later than expected and in a totally unexpected way.
When I became a mom, I longed for the day when I could coach my kids, but Julian was never interested in sports and Avery likes soccer, which is a game I have very little experience with.
For five years or so, he’s been on various YMCA teams, all of which have been coached by other people, most of whom were just fine. None of them yelled or were hyper aggressive about winning.
I was always grateful to the coaches for the effort they put into the teams, but I didn’t consider volunteering myself because 1) I’ve never coached 2) soccer was never a sport I really cared much for.
My attitude about soccer has been changing, thanks in part to the soccer mania of the past few years with the debut of the Austin FC and, of course, “Ted Lasso,” a show that I have really come to love over its first two seasons.
In September, Avery got assigned to a 10- and 11-year-old team with a Very Good Parent Coach, but he hurt his back early in the season. They needed more parent volunteers to step up.
Inspired in part by the TV show (I must admit), I figured I could easily transform into a well-meaning coach who, despite knowing very little about soccer, could create a space where their players could thrive.
So, a fellow mom and I teamed up and became Coach Jenny and Coach Addie.
Good thing Coach Jenny knew what she was talking about because I didn’t.
During the first game, I stood on the sidelines and shouted my best guess about what the players should be doing. She had to coach me about how to coach them.
“The defensive players need to come up with the ball is on the other side of the field,” she told me, my feelings only minimally hurt that I didn’t already know this.
I kept remembering how lost I felt on the soccer field in elementary school. I played until fifth grade, but I stopped in middle school when I realized how much more adept I was at the other sports. (We also didn’t have a girls soccer program, which surely also played a factor in quitting.)
These players are in fourth and fifth grade, so it’s not wrong to say that many of them know more than I do.
But this was my own opportunity, Ted Lasso-style, to contribute something else to the team.
At ages 10 and 11, some of these kids still need help tying their shoes. Or not freaking out when they step on an ant hill. I couldn’t tell them if they were offsides or not, but I could give them the encouragement to go after the ball or not to hang their head if they messed up.
So I tied shoes and adjusted shin guards and showed them how to throw the ball in keeping their back foot down. (That’s the one soccer skill that I mastered.)
The hardest part about coaching was staying one step ahead of what the team needed. Most of the times, I felt like one of them, a little clueless about what was happening and wishing it was time for a water break.
Coach Jenny and I got into a groove as the season went on. She took the lead. I played Coach Beard, quietly keeping an eye on things while she did most of the yelling.
At the end of every game, the referees gather the coaches and kids around for the YMCA chant. The ref shouts, “Who do we play for?” and all the kids and coaches shout “For all!,” and they repeat this call and response three times, increasingly louder each time.
It’s a cheesy way to end the game, but it also brings about that sense of spirit and unity that sports can inspire.
Last weekend was the final game of the season. Avery’s eligible for one more season of YMCA soccer, and then he says he’s done with playing. Forever or for now? I’m not sure.
But I’m glad I got this season with him as part of the Golden Hybrids. (They came up with the name while brainstorming one day at practice. How? I have no idea.)
After the last game, all the kids gathered for a photo. You’ll notice that there’s no Coach Jenny or Coach Addie.
Coach Payne was on his feet again and was able to coach the last game, so I got to sit on the sidelines again and simply be a soccer mom.
My return to coaching ended as quickly as it began.
Over those half a dozen games, I realized that I’m no Ted Lasso.
I’m Coach Addie who’d rather be on a team than leading one but who knows when to take one for the team and change positions.
Avery’s team photo looks quite a bit different than all those team photos of mine I found while working on “Class Reunion,” but I also see so many similarities.
(If you want to peruse a bunch of photos from the early days, check out @classreunionpodcast, where I’ve been posting historical and recent photos of each of the participants on the podcast. The season is officially wrapped, but I have a couple of bonus episodes in the works for the new year!)
Fresh-faced, mop-top kids grinning that are ready to start skipping around and doing cartwheels. Through each of these team photos, you can see my teammates/friends and I changing, little by little, year by year.
Haircuts and fashion evolve, but those smiles stay the same.
Thanks so much for joining me on this little sports series! It’s been fun to write about each of these activities through a different lens.
Look for a Thanksgiving column from me early next week about what it’s been like NOT writing a Thanksgiving food section this fall.
In the meantime, go check out what my old Statesman pals Eric Webb and Kelsey Bradshaw have been up to for the newspaper’s Thanksgiving food coverage, including recipes from Camilla McConaughey, Marcia Ball and Steve Adler.
I enjoyed your sports series so much. Like so many of your other writings, it brings back many memories. Since I’m considerably older than you, I’ll not be heading over for the b’ball pickup game but I just might drop by for a look see. Glad your have found joy and renewed strength in your sporting life.