I was a little nervous leading up to the games since my attempts to get my kids to play little games at practice hadn't gone so well. Some kids got bored with scrimmages after 3 or 4 minutes (which boded ill considering games are 40 minutes long!). Some kids were really hurt and discouraged that they had to fight for the ball, and that other people might come and take the ball from them. So, when the first game came and ALL of my kids wanted to play, and NONE of them cried when they didn't get to keep the ball, and ALL of them stayed interested, I counted myself very lucky.
What a great group of kids I have! They are all so sweet and they each have their own personality. One girl wants to hold my hand a lot. One little boy gives me hugs. Another little boy tries to tickle me. The kids get so proud when they make a play, like stopping the ball or scoring a goal.
It's hive soccer, of course, where the kids all just run around after the ball. Sometimes I can convince a couple of them to hang back and play defense a little.
I tell you, though, it's a lot of work! I'm out there on the field the whole time, helping the kids, encouraging them ("Go for it!" "Other way! Turn it around!" "Great save!" "She's on your team, you don't need to take it from her!"). Blowing the whistle when we need to stop the play and do a throw in or goal kick, deciding whose turn it is to throw or kick it in. Plus keeping track of the time (10 minute quarters, with subs happening at 5 minutes) and keeping track of which kids' turn it is to come out. (I've started asking parents to help keep track when possible.)
I usually end the game a little hoarse and in need of my own nap.
I've been pleasantly surprised with how June does, considering she was one of the ones who got offended when other people took the ball from her at practice. But she runs around with this determined smile on her face. I wish I had a better chance to watch just her without any other responsibility. When she gets the ball she tends to run in the wrong direction. When I talked to her about it, she acknowledged that she knew she was going the wrong way, but that she dribbled away because "that way no one will take it from me."
I continue to torment myself wondering what the other parents are thinking. Am I doing a good job? Are their kids having fun? Am I letting each kid play the same amount? Encouraging each kid the same amount? Helping each kid to have fun? I'm encouraged not only by poor Michael's constant reassurance that I'm doing just fine, but also by the fact that all my kids seem to be having a good time. They all want to play, and act bummed out when it's their turn to sit out. I've talked to some other coaches and friends who have kids on their team who still refuse to go out on the field.
I try to make practices as fun as possible, but I've got kids ranging from 4.5 to 6. So the things that might amuse a 4.5 year-old might seem childish and boring to a 6 year-old. And the drills a 6 year-old can do might be too tough for a 4.5 year-old. So I do my best and hope it all works out.
By the way, here is my tiger tee-shirt. Our team is the Tigers and I decided to buy a shirt to wear while I coach the games. It is majestic and worn a little ironically, and I'm sure some people think I'm wearing it in earnest and think I'm a little nutty.
So there you have it! We're about halfway through our season of games and if it ends as strongly as it has started, I'll be thrilled and consider it all a success.