They’re K5, Dude; Chill Out

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The indefatigable Sea Lions returned to the win column today after a rain out last week. What made this morning’s victory especially enjoyable was our competition. For the first time all year, Coach Thomas and I finally got to play a team whose coach shares the same philosophy about Upward Soccer as we do — we’re all here to have a good time, learn a little about soccer, and enjoy some sunshine.

I wish he could get such admirable sentiments across to the rest of the coaches in the league.

I am not the smartest and certainly not the wisest of men, but I am somewhat observational and one thing I have seen at every level of sports I have ever participated in as a player, coach, or spectator is take-it-to-the-bank guaranteed — any team is a DIRECT reflection of its coaching staff, be it a staff of one or twelve. Simply put, if the coach is a jerk, most of the team will be jerks too, with the opposite being thankfully true as well.

Take our first game for instance. We were way overmatched. The opposing team had athletes, not players. Sometimes, that happens in randomly assigned teams, but what doesn’t happen is a team of K5 and 1st graders who were out for blood and victory. This bunch didn’t try anything but scoring. Each of their seven players was an athletic prodigy. I won’t be at all surprised to see any of the seven playing some sport at the pro level in ten to fifteen years. What was obvious to me by the first water break was this group’s mentality was to stomp us flat on Saturday . . . they could learn about Jesus tomorrow. Their coach was on the field (allowed and encouraged in Upward sports) berating any player who happened to lose possession of the ball to one of our little ones. We lost by a lot but there’s only one problem with that

KEEPING OPEN SCORE IS A VIOLATION OF THE SPIRIT OF UPWARD LEAGUES.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of these people who thinks everyone needs a trophy and life isn’t about winners and losers. I believe we need leagues where the goal IS winning so kids whom that matters to have a place to go. Upwards, however, isn’t that place. Here, everybody — by rule — gets equal playing time, everybody gets stickers after the game, and — most of all — everybody has a devotion at practice and at halftime of all the games. These leagues are supposed to foster what their name implies UPWARD focus. The games are supposed to be all about instruction in the sport and learning about Jesus.

Not many of the coaches seem to have gotten that memo even though Ms. Becky stressed the point many times at the organizational meeting before we even got our teams. Besides, I believe if your self-esteem and worth as a man depends AT ALL on the score of a 36 minute soccer game between children just barely old enough to stay up til dark during the week, you have issues they make several nice pills for.

Take our last game two weeks ago. The coach of the other team was INSANE. I’ve never been so happy to win a game. He was a Rule Nazi who didn’t know the rules. For example, he called Coach Thomas’ daughter for being offsides and took the ball away from her.  If this maniac had read his rulebook, he would know this league DOESN’T HAVE OFFSIDES!! We only play 4 on 4 at a time and the fields are the size of a big living room. Goalkeeping isn’t even allowed so how in the world can someone be offsides? Lauren was crushed — and crushed needlessly. Thankfully, Thomas is a much better man than I or the league would be short one coach.

This week was nice though. The opposite coach was a big bear of a guy recently moved down from Pennsylvania. I knew he was different immediately because of two important missing pieces of his equipment. First, he didn’t wear sunglasses and second, he didn’t have on a visor like the Second Coming of Steve Spurrier. He smiled constantly. His team lacked a few players at the very start (pretty common actually) but he insisted we play our 4 on his 3. Thankfully a fourth player showed up for him just at kickoff and his whole team was there by halftime.

He was great. He helped OUR players just as much as his team. When his team scored he cheered and high-fived everyone BUT when OUR team scored a goal he ALSO high-fived and cheered them as well. Our kids noticed the difference as well, which is something EVERYONE needs to remember. Kids are the greatest judge of character in the world. They can spot a phony or a faker in a skinny minute and they WILL call you out. Any time you see players our kids’ ages hugging their coach, you know he must be doing something right. When it was time for the halftime “Sunday School lesson” he sat with his team and constantly tapped and patted to keep them quiet and attentive to the speaker. Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep SEVEN itty bitties still and quiet for a seven minute lesson? He did it though.

So if you lead children, remember — they are children, not little adults. Let them have fun and go easy on the pressure and nit-picking. The “real world” will be slapping them in the face soon enough so allow them some joy while they can enjoy it!

Love y’all and keep those feet clean . . . and warm! Fall is here!

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