“Come on Spidermen!” I yell as a wave the blue-jerseyed three and four year-olds toward me. “Who’s going to kick the ball this time?” I ask looking expectantly at my tiny players. On this sunny June day in Michigan I find myself in an unusual role. I am the soccer coach for my son’s team. I have never been a soccer coach before, I have never even played soccer, in fact, I have not been a part of a sports team since second grade, yet here I am.
How did I find myself in this predicament, you may ask. Well, when the woman from the soccer team called up looking for volunteers she made it sound so simple. She assured me that I would not be the coach and would only need to assist on the field. I was uncertain, but she informed me that it was easy and all I needed to do was register on the website and go through a simple background check. The website, however, did not have a “helper” category so I chose “assistant coach” and clearly indicated in the notes that I was only a helper. Well, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished and I found myself a coach.
The thing about being kicked outside of your comfort zone is it forces you to take action. I started by sharing my woes with my co-worker who is originally from Brazil. As it turns out, her husband grew up playing soccer and so she kindly volunteered him to come to the first game to support me. I also called the soccer organization and made sure there would be an expert available on the field should I need them. I then studied like crazy. I watched videos, read the practice plan, and learned as much about the basics of soccer as I could. I needed to feel prepared.
At the first practice I was nervous. I greeted the parents as they came and handed out jerseys. During the warm up I cheered the kids on as they tried jumping jacks for the first time and then practiced kicking the ball. One Mom encouraged her son saying, “remember to kick with the side of your foot”, and I took this morsel of wisdom and encouraged the others to do the same. At game time I gave lots of high fives and cheered each player on even as we lost.
At the end of the day I was exhausted, but I learned a few things. First, I was more prepared for this then I would have been for something I knew really well. Not knowing anything forced me to plan and be ready for anything. Secondly, I learned that enthusiasm goes a long way. The same Mom who know more about soccer than me, told me I did a good job. Lastly, I learned that there will be people to help you. Between my friend’s husband and the experienced Mom, the practice and game went well. I doubt I will ever be a sports coach again, but it’s nice to know that when you step outside of your comfort zone there is a net to catch you, even in if the net is for soccer.