footprintsontheceiling

Archive for the ‘mijos’ Category

Adventures in Soccer Coaching – Season 3.

In mijos, Uncategorized on April 27, 2009 at 9:42 am

worst-sport-environment-soccer2

So I’m coaching kindergarten soccer again, for the third time.  I’ve decided that while the economy goes to shit and the swine flu takes over and people go off and kill their entire families with alarming regularity, I’m going to be rebellious and take the opposite tact:  I’m going to play nice.  Meaning I’m going to take any “extra” or “free” time I have and put it into something good for society.  Maybe I’m becoming a hippy.  Sure, soccer coaching might not seem all that important, but every season I have 7 or 8 families who entrust me with their 5 year old child for an hour twice a week, and they trust me to be a “coach.”  Which, if you remember back to your childhood, is a big deal.

This past Saturday we had our second game of Spring Soccer.  My team, The Butterflies (I let them pick the name and it’s different for every game – for the first game we were The Dinosaurs), was playing another team that didn’t have a name.  And on that Team That Shall Not Be Named, there was one rough kid who started pushing kids and eventually tackled one of the girls on my team, sending her off with tears and an Owie.  I told the kid to stop and I knelt down, got right in his face – remember, he was not on my team – and said, in my best “Don’t Fuck With My Team” voice, “If I see you do that again I’m going to go talk to your parents.”  Which took care of the problem.

Or so I thought.  The next thing I saw was the rough kid facing the other way and one of my boys (we’ll call him Jimmy) go up to him, from behind, and push him to the ground.  I immediately went up to Jimmy and said “What was that?  Go sit down.  You’re out of the game.”  Which, of course, made him cry.  But I let him have a Walk of Shame, where he had to walk across the field, crying, to his parents.

A few minutes later, I asked Jimmy to come back in the game.   I knelt down and talked to him.  “Look, Jimmy, no matter what’s going on on THAT team, WE don’t play that way.  Okay?”

“Okay, coach.”

“You want revenge on that kid, Jimmy?”

“Yes.”

“You go score a goal on him right now.  That’s the best revenge.”

Jimmy took the ball, worked his way down to their goal, and with a nice big kick, scored a goal.  I was so proud.  It was one of those moments in life – and they’re few and far between, it seems like – where I stood back for a second and said to myself, “Damn, maybe I DO know what I’m doing.”

From the mouths of babes…..

In mijos on January 4, 2009 at 3:07 pm

cute_pictures_1612

From the G-Man, my 5 year old son:

“Bad guys are trying to kill the kitty waiters.”

Now, the context:  He pretends that our dining table is a “ship carrying a hotel,” and he waits on us while we eat, which is freaking hilarious.  “May I serve you?”  So I order pretend caviar and champagne, which he brings along with my pretend bill.  Pretend caviar is quite expensive, let me tell you.  Anyway, so today at lunch he announced that “all the waiters are kitties,” and that our ship was being invaded by bad guys from a bad guy ship.  Thus, the sentence above.

Don’t you feel much more informed than you were before you read this post?  Happy New Year.

The simple pleasures of winter

In mijos on December 4, 2008 at 10:59 am

kid-snow

Damn, I really should stop and smell the tulips more often.  Amidst all the craziness of life, it’s a pure joy to walk two boys to school in the snow.  Here in Denver, we got our first decent snow of the season last night and today (it’s still going), and, because we live a block from their school, I walked the boys to school this morning in that snow.  So while the financial mess in our country is on my mind and the real estate slowdown is on my mind and the fact that I should go see a dentist soon is on my mind, I walk with my 5 year old and my 8 year old sons up snow covered sidewalks, through a quiet landscape of pure white, while they stick out their pink tongues to taste the snow and they shield their blue eyes under their skull caps to keep the snow out of those precious eyes.  They talk about building a snowman after school and whether or not they’re going to have to stay in at recess today.  They’re wearing big parkas, carrying their backpacks with the delicious lunches I made for them, and they’re each holding my hand tightly so they don’t slip and fall on the sidewalks.  And I stop for a moment and reflect….nothing else really matters.

Fuck!

In mijos, silly on November 26, 2008 at 12:03 am

cursing

5 year old son:  “Daddy, I know what the worst word in the world is.  It’s fuck!”

————————————————————————————–

Me, playing a rhyming game with 5 year old son:  “What do you get if you replace the ‘d’ in ‘dog’ with an ‘f’?”

5 year old son:  “Fuck!”

————————————————————————————–

Me, to 5 year old son:  “I hope Santa brings me something nice.”

5 year old son:  “Like a booty?”

My son has no idea how relevant that is.  ‘Cuz yeah, I’d like some booty.

All you need is……candy?

In mijos on November 7, 2008 at 10:27 am

candy-poster

My kindergartner:  “Daddy, what’s the importantest thing in the whole wide world?”

Me:  “Love for your fellow human beings.”

My kindergartner:  “Oh.  I thought it was candy.”

Politics and 5 year olds.

In mijos on October 18, 2008 at 7:29 pm

My kids have been semi-tuned in to the political situation this year.  Semi.  We were driving home from something recently and the G-Man asked, “What’s our next president’s name?”  And Mrs. C responded, “Barack Obama.  Isn’t that a cool name?”  To which the G-Man responded, “Barack O’Bottom?  That’s not a cool name at all, mom!”

————————-

The other day I was playing “Fancy Restaurant” with both of the boys, which is where they come up to me, take my order, charge me money, and then leave with my money.  Never to return again.  Which is, I assume, very much like it’ll be in the college years.  Anyway, the Mixmaster asked me what I wanted and I said, “I’d like a salad today.”

“Okay, daddy wants one salad.”

“Oh, and son, I’d like dressing on it.”

“Dressing, Dad?”

“Yeah, son.  Dressing.  What kinds of dressing do you have?”

“Um, we have all of them.”

“Okay, Sarah Palin.”  He didn’t get it.  But I chuckled.

Coach

In mijos on August 12, 2008 at 9:50 pm

When I was just a wee lad I played Little League baseball in San Diego. I played all of ONE season. Yes, one season. That season, I played right field. I got to bat 20 times; each time I got up to bat, I was afraid of the ball coming at me at what seemed to be 1,000 mph, and I just stood there. Never swinging. So I struck out 11 times and walked 9 times. How the hell do I remember all this after 30+ years? It had that kind of affect on me. Not a good affect, either. Obviously, because I never played that particular sport again. Sure, I played softball in the infamous LA and San Diego architectural leagues of the late 80s and early 90s (remember those? Of course you do!), but obviously I had grown up and wasn’t nearly afraid of the ball coming at me when I was at the plate. Of course, in softball the pitch is like a tropical vacation compared to a baseball pitch.

Now it’s a new century and I have kids and they’re starting to get old enough to play sports. Which I’ve always wondered about. Seriously, the only team sport I’ve ever truly enjoyed has been ice hockey, and I didn’t start playing that until I was in my mid 30s. Before that I played a lot of tennis, but those are the only two sports I’ve truly loved enough to participate in for any length of time. So I’ve always wondered if my kids had the sports gene in them or not. Obviously, it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m not going to be the kind of dad who forces sport on his kids (although I did make them both take ice skating lessons a couple of years ago, which didn’t stick); I’d honestly rather have them be intelligent, compassionate human beings than be athletic. But I’m also willing to follow and explore their leanings with them. That’s what good fathers do, isn’t it?

My youngest son, the G-Man, has shown great interest in soccer from time to time. So just to see if his interest is truly real, I decided I’d sign him up for summer soccer at my local YMCA. Well, okay, not local, because we in central Denver don’t really have a “local” YMCA with a soccer field. As usual with things like this, we looked to our neighboring suburban counties for better recreational facilities than the ones we have here in the city. So I signed him up at the Arvada YMCA, which is about 15 minutes from my house, out in Jefferson County. I signed him up on-line, because that’s how I roll, and when you sign up there’s a little box you can check to volunteer. I thought to myself, “Sure, I’ll volunteer to help out somehow; I have to take him to the field anyway, so I might as well help out somehow.” I thought maybe I could pass out snacks or soccer balls or ties shoes or something, ya know?

Once the time drew near for summer soccer to start, I went on-line (remember? That’s how I roll) to check the schedule, and I find the G-Man’s name, and he’s on Team 3, and Team 3’s coach is (wait for it) Jeff C. Wait, what? Me? I’m the freaking coach? Um, this is a bad idea. I know all of NOTHING about soccer. So I sent the Y coordinator an e-mail explaining that, “I’ve never played soccer and I don’t know the rules of soccer; can I be an assistant or something?” He wrote back, “We’re very short on coaches. You’ll do fine.” That gives you a lot of faith in the system, doesn’t it? Some yahoo checks a volunteer box and you’re willing to give him a whole team of 5 year olds for a whole season? Okaaaaaaaay. So I wrote back, “Oh, all right. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’ve taught theater games to kindergartners before. If I get stuck, I’ll just start making them do theater games.” He thought that was funny. So apparently I got the job.

So I set out to take on my new position with gusto normally reserved for a root canal. They’re similar, right? I mean, when it’s over, it will have been great. And there will be little blood. But at the same time, it could be painful during the process. My biggest worry, honestly, was that I’d have overly competitive parents who wouldn’t like anything I did. Which I wouldn’t enjoy. I don’t really enjoy brawling with somebody’s dad on an artificial turf soccer field. If it were real Kentucky bluegrass, I could probably enjoy it. It doesn’t hurt the knees nearly as much. Anyway, I set out to mitigate that from the beginning. I sent out an e-mail explaining to the team parents that all I really wanted to do with this was instill a love of sport in the children (something I obviously didn’t get until I was in my late 20s) and for the kids to have fun. Seriously, in a U-6 league at a YMCA, there are no goalies and no score keeping. So it’s obvious the major goal is to have fun. And I was bound and determined that my kid and all the kids on the team would at least be exposed to the notion that sports are fun.

I went online and downloaded all kinds of great games and exercises for the kids to play. At our first practice, I had them play “Red Light Green Light” with soccer balls and a parent as the caller, which was cool. I also discovered that their favorite game to play is a game called “Islands and Sharks,” where you set up cones to create 3 islands and you put a bunch of parents between the islands and when you blow the whistle, the kids have to dribble their soccer ball to a different island while the sharks (parents) try to kick the balls away from the kids. It’s a very cool game and the kids started asking for it at each practice, so I used it as a bit of a reward. “First we’ll do this much more serious exercise, then we’ll spend the last 15 minutes of practice playing ‘Islands and Sharks.’” They loved it. And the parents got to be involved and play with their kids which made the whole experience better for everybody. In theory, anyway.

I ended up with 4 boys and 4 girls and, as always at this age, the girls were much better than the boys at the game. Sometimes I’d pit the girls against the boys in things and the girls would win 80% of the time. The same phenomena happens in Drama Club: most of the kids who get it are girls. Say what you want, boys, but at that age girls are generally better put together than boys. The girls work together, they communicate, and they’re competitive. The boys, on the other hand, could be found standing around looking up at the sky from time to time while the girls were beating them at whatever game was going on. “Look, a dragonfly!”

Each week we had one practice on Monday and a game on Saturday morning. Which kills any notion of getting out of town for a summer weekend, let me tell you. That’s one unintentional by-product of being the coach that caught me unaware. “You mean I have to be there EVERY Saturday?” I had one dad cover for me one week when we had a vacation planned, but otherwise The G-Man and I were there every time. Which, ultimately, was worth it, really. The Y puts forth all these rules for games for kindergartners; you’re supposed to have 8 minute quarters with breaks and a halftime and blahblahblah…I studied it a little, but I thought I’d show up for the first game and just follow along, hoping that the other coach knew what he was doing. Well, as it turns out, the other team had 2 coaches, and they’d all been together for a couple of years. And they didn’t really follow the rules. “Let’s just start and we’ll take water breaks when necessary.” “Oh, okay. That sounds good.” That’s kind of how the whole league went; we’d just start and play. Once in a while we’d call halftime. I had 8 kids on my team, so it was easy to swap kids in and out for water breaks during the game. Honestly, much of the time during games I was more worried about making sure my kids were hydrated than how they were playing. It’s been a hot, hot summer.

And I really thought there were more rules to soccer. Okay, so there are, but we didn’t really follow them. “Um, the ball’s out of bounds.” “Let’s let them play it.” “Oh, okay.” I’m telling you, I started the league as a by-the-books serious coach and I ended it like a drunken sailor on shore leave. “Just play, kids. I’ll be over here with my whiskey and my internet porn.”

At the first game, we pretty much were owned by the team with 2 coaches, as they have this one kid who’s like the Terminator of kindergarten soccer. This little dude wouldn’t stop running until he had scored, seriously. And he must have scored 5 times that first game. So at the practice after that, I was worried about how my team felt. I mean it’s the adult thing to think, right? They must be upset; they just got their asses kicked. So I started off practice 2 with a question and answer session. “What did you like about the game?” The one kid I was really worried about beamed at me and said, “I scored a goal.” “What didn’t you like about the game?” “Nothing. Because I scored a goal.” There ya go. My adult fears were groundless.

Each week, I had my team come up with a new name for Team 3 before the game started. I figured it’d be a good way to have fun with it and create camaraderie among the players. So the girls came up with team names like, “The Sun,” and “The Wind,” and “Honeybees.” The boys? “Indiana Jones.” “The Rockets.” “The Dragonflies.” I think one boy even threw out “The Darth Vaders” once, but I didn’t take it. Probably because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t hear him.

And it’s really funny to see your 5 year old develop a rivalry with another 5 year old. There was a team with a kid named Tyler on it that we played a couple of times. My son, The G-Man, was playing hard (which wasn’t his usual MO – he spent a lot time tending to the dragonflies) during a game with Tyler’s team and got tangled up with Tyler and there was some pushing and shoving and falling down and such. After the game, G-Man said, “Tyler’s a rough player. I don’t like him.” After that, every Saturday morning, the G-Man would wake up and say, “I hope we’re not playing Tyler’s team today.”

One of my favorite moments of the season: I always tried to be positive with the kids. “Good job.” “Nice kick.” Sometimes, it’s like trying to shore up the Titanic. “Hey, that was, uh, really good hustle when the other team scored those 8 goals.” No, it was never that bad. But sometimes I had to find positive things to say in the face of negative things happening. And I always told them “good job.” So, during one game, the ball went out of bounds, and somebody on the sidelines kicked it back in and I heard one of my girls say, “Good job, Grandma!” I was nearly on the artificial turf LMFAO.

As far as psycho parents go….there weren’t any. In fact, this group of parents was like a dream come true. I went in expecting a coven of Beezlebubs; instead, I got a whole flock of Glindas (the good witch). They were nice, they volunteered to bring snacks, and they had good kids. Another one of my favorite moment of the season went like this: After a game, one of the kids’ grandparents came up to me. This man was obviously a Navy man, based on his aircraft carrier hat and his Aviator sunglasses, which he wore to every game. And before you jump down my throat for stereotyping a Navy man based on his fashion, understand that my dad was a Navy man. It’s not a stereotype; it’s a uniform. Anyway, Navy man comes up to me and says, with a Navy demeanor, “Coach, I really like what you’re doing out there.” “Um, thank you, sir.” Yeah, I called him ‘sir.’ Again, I come from a Navy family. If a Navy man addresses you, you call him ‘sir.’ Then again, I haven’t called a Navy man ‘sir’ in 30 years; maybe this man caught me off guard a little. Maybe I was a little intimidated at the thought of having a Navy man on the sidelines judging my rookie soccer coaching techniques. Anyway, I said, “Um, thank you, sir.” And he said, “I like what you’re doing. And I don’t know how you keep track of all those substitutions of the kids during games, but it’s perfect.” “Um, wow, honestly, sir, I’m just making it up as I go.” “Well, we can’t tell. Keep it up.” Validation from a Navy man must mean a lot to me, as I had a smile on face for the rest of that day.

Towards the end of the season, one of the mothers came up to me after a practice and asked, “Are you coaching next season?” I pondered it for a moment. Am I? Has this been any more difficult than teaching Drama Club at my local elementary school? More importantly, has it been any less rewarding? No; in fact, it’s as rewarding. And my son seems to enjoy it. “Yes, I’ll be coaching again.” “Good. I’m going to sign my son up again and request that you be his coach again.” “Wow. Thanks.” “You’re a MUCH better coach than the yahoo coach he had last season.” Damn, will you stop it already? I’m going to get a big head!

So I’m coaching again next season. With my son and two other boys coming back to the team (many of the kids are moving up a league, as they’re entering first grade). I’ve ordered a couple of coaching books to help, and I plan on trying to get the kids to pass to each other, because if they can spread out and pass to each other it’ll look less like a swarm of bees chasing a ball and they’ll score many, many more goals. We’ll see how that goes. I think, ultimately, the kids had a lot of fun and, hopefully, they learned that sports can be fun. And maybe they’ll all play another season of soccer before they get to their mid 30s. If that’s all that happens because of this, I will have done my job. And it will have been worth every Saturday I put into it.

From the mouths of babes, episode 897…

In mijos on July 18, 2008 at 9:53 am

We just returned from a short vacation to California, where we spend most of our week in the pool.  And the G-Man figured out early on in the vacation that he actually loves to swim.  Previously, he had been reticent to put his head under water, but on this trip he started putting his whole body and head in and swimming.  And he started jumping in the pool from the side, after seeing some other kids doing it (and yelling “Cowabunga!” each time).

Anyway, the last day we were there, we were getting ready to get in the pool, and he was waiting for me to get in so he could Cowabunga in, and he looks at me and says (remember, he’s only 5), “Daddy, get in so I can finish my jumping-in process!”

From the mouths of Babes, episode 436.

In mijos on July 7, 2008 at 10:49 am

Sometimes, in the midst of all the craziness, I take a moment to stop and reflect. The other day, I did that and found myself staring at my five year old son, The G-Man, and smiling. To which he replied:

“Stop smiling at me, Dad! I’m not a camera!”

Surprise, surprise!

In mijos on February 7, 2008 at 11:56 pm

sol-vista-main-image.jpg

Okay, so I don’t write much anymore. Things around here are quite out of hand. And, yes, that’s my lame attempt at an excuse for not writing. Whatever. Let’s get on with it:

There isn’t much in life that surprises me anymore. Republicans, bad drivers, stupid parents…I’ve seen it all. Or so I thought. Last weekend, Mrs. C and I did something totally off-the-hook insane: we took the boys skiing. Realize that I haven’t been skiing in 8 years, because I sorta stopped when the Mixmaster was born and I took up hockey. But I used to love to ski, and we used to go several times a winter. And realize that our kids typically don’t take kindly to trying new things. They tried ice skating lessons a year or two ago, which turned into a fiasco, and they’re now taking swim lessons, which is going okay, but I absolutely have to prod them and be there to “encourage” them during such things. So while I’m naturally an optimistic person, I really didn’t have high hopes for this. In fact, when Mrs. C suggested it, I hesitated. “Are you feeling okay today, dear?” “Jeff, I just don’t want us to be one of those families that doesn’t ski.” “I understand that, but they’re 4 and 7. Isn’t that a little young to start skiing? I mean, I didn’t start until I was 24.” Needless to say, she talked me into it.

So we booked a condo at Sol Vista and went up Friday afternoon, after renting the boys skis for the season from Sports Authority. And buying them helmets. And gloves. And goggles. And new parkas. Damn, skiing’s expensive! And that’s before I bought them two days of ski school! But they were quite excited, because they absolutely love going to the mountains (The G-Man kept saying we were going to stay at a “cargo”). And they seemed to enjoy the thought of strapping skis to their feet; they even practiced at our house before we left.

Saturday morning we put them in ski school and hung out to watch. Knowing how skittish the boys can be, we just wanted to be prepared in case they were uncooperative. But they were doing pretty well, so I bought myself a 1/2 day lift ticket and rented skis and went skiing by myself in the afternoon while Mrs. C watched over the boys. Sunday morning, however, the Mixmaster was freaking out about ski school, and didn’t want anything to do with it. Why? He was scared of the chair lift. Which he went up on twice on Saturday. But for some reason, it was making him crazy Sunday morning. So we did the right thing and put him in ski school anyway, hoping that he’d get over it.

Which he didn’t. I was standing in the ski school lobby, giving G-Man his goggles that he’d forgotten, when an instructor and the Mixmaster walk up; the Mixmaster’s crying, and the instructor says to the person in charge, “Can you call The Mixmaster’s parents?” “Um, hi, I’m his dad.” Basically he was inconsolable and didn’t want to be there and they didn’t want him there, either, so I picked him up and took him up to the cafeteria for a snack.

Which is where you’d think this story ends, right? Skiing failed and the boys can try again when they’re 24. But an hour after flunking out of ski school, the Mixmaster comes up to me and says, “Daddy, get your skis. I want to ski with you.” “What?” “I want to ski with you.” Ummmmm, okay, I guess. I mean, I’m no expert and am certainly not qualified to teach a kid how to ski, but if I can get him out on the snow again maybe this weekend won’t be a total waste, right? So I get my skis and buy another lift ticket and we hop on the bunny hill lift (which is apparently not scary if you’re with your daddy) and we’re at the top and I’m showing him how to slow himself down with a snow plow and he’s taking to it like a Frenchman takes to caviar. Which means he’s picking it up quickly. We do that a couple of times and then he says, “Daddy, let’s go to the top of the mountain.” “Are you feeling okay today, son?” “I’m serious, daddy!” What the hell, right?

So we hop on the high speed lift and go to the top and we pick a green run to come down and, as my 7 year old son is skiing down a mountain next to me, I look over at him, doing his little snow plow shape with his skis, going almost as fast as I am, and I am simply overwhelmed by life. And this thought parks in my head like a tulip in springtime: “Not much surprises me anymore. But this? This is stunning.”

Needless to say, it was a beautiful moment. One of those moments that makes you stop and take a deep breath and count your blessings and realize what life’s supposed to be about.

On our way back to Denver we stopped at the Fraser Tubing Hill which, if you’ve never been, is the most fun a person can possibly have without being naked. Well, I suppose you could tube naked, but I imagine you’d freeze about halfway down the hill. Anyway, we rented 2 tubes for an hour and Mrs. C and I each held a son and went down the hill as many times as we could in that hour and it was ridiculously fun. And it was again one of those experiences that makes a person remember what we’re truly here for. And what a joy it is to live in Colorado. And what a joy it is to have children.