Tag Archives: sports

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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Onward and Upward: The Joy of Herding Cats

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Back about the middle of July, my buddy Thomas texted me with a proposition. His middle child and youngest daughter, Lauren, was going to play soccer. He planned to coach and wanted to know if I would agree to help him as his co-coach. I have no idea what compelled him to choose me out of all the people he knows. I am certain it was not for my vast experience as an award winning soccer coach since my entire knowledge of soccer comes from one season as a high school head coach of necessity — which I’ve already discussed — and a few viewings of various FIFA World Cups over the years. Furthermore, I have no children of my own of any age so the little ones are a mystery to me, albeit an adorable one.  Whatever his reasons, I found my fingers texting back “Sure thing; it’ll be fun.”

Looking back, I’m relatively certain I figured Thomas would find someone better suited OR Lauren would decided to stick with horseback riding OR the Mayan Apocalypse would be several months early. I don’t think I seriously considered actually being a children’s soccer coach until a month later when I was actually sitting next to Thomas at the intro meeting for the MFBC Upward Soccer League. By then, my pride wouldn’t let me run away screaming; although it might have actually been less embarrassing if I had.

Too late for that, though. I was an Upward Soccer Coach.

Here I should tell you a few important details about this particular league. Upward Soccer is a Christian outreach program. Each practice and game include a time for a short devotion. It’s a way to learn about Jesus and play a little soccer. At least, that’s the theory.

One other important thing I need to mention. Our team? Three kindergarteners and four first graders. What experience I do have with children has always been with the middle school or older crowd. Now, I was expected to teach the “itty-bittys” about “The Beautiful Game.” If you are already laughing, stay tuned. It gets better.

In Upward, we play on a quarter sized field with four players per side. We don’t have goalies because no one wants a K5er getting kicked in the mouth going for a save. The goals are tiny as well — six feet wide by three feet high. Other than that, most of the rules are just like regular soccer.

Our team is Lauren, Addy, Sofia, Garrison, Jonas, Collin, and True. We are the Sea Lions, but secretly I like to refer to us as The Magnificent Seven. Officially, it’s called Upward Soccer, but a more accurate name for it would be Amoeba Ball. Keep in mind, K5 and 1st graders — eight on a field at a time. Basically, it’s a #3 sized soccer ball amidst sixteen whirling, stabbing, jabbing, and flailing lower limbs. Wherever the ball moves, the cloud of dust and children follow. Position play is a distant dream. If the ball squirts out of the scrum and a team-mate kicks it next instead of an opponent, we call it a “pass” and are deliriously happy.

It truly is like herding cats; especially given how all the kittens don’t always want to play at the same time.

Take Addy for instance. She is a precious child. At our first practice, I was trying to get her and her teammates to line up in two lines. How hard can it be, right? Let me put it this way; I used to laugh at the colored tiles on the floor at Budge’s school after she told me they used them to teach the children where to line up correctly. If I could have, I would have tiled the entire soccer field just to have colored squares. In little Addy’s case, however, it wouldn’t have helped. She was having a terrible time figuring out how to line up so I knelt down next to her and said, “Baby, it’s like getting in line to go to the gym or the lunchroom at school or maybe lining up to go out to recess.” She looked at me so very sweetly with her little pink bow and her cute glasses making her eyes even bigger and brighter and said in a completely guileless, precious voice,

“Mr Shannon, I’m homeschooled.” So much for THAT analogy.

Another tendency of these little ones I’m learning is how whatever enters their minds must exit through their mouths IMMEDIATELY lest it be forgotten, which would be a terrible tragedy. For example, here’s an exchange during our first devotion midway through the initial practice:

Thomas: “Can anyone tell me who Jesus is?”
Garrison: “I’m firsty; can I get a dwink of water?”
Jonas: “Does he go to school around here?”
Lauren: “Daddy, we learned about Jesus at Camp Grace.”
True: “I’ve got new cleats! See them?” (Holds up foot with new cleat on it)

That’s just the beginning of the tales. I have a ton more to say about our little team and since the season runs through October, expect more posts about this adventure. Right now though, I have to go do some research. Sofia is DYING to play Sharks and Minnows at the next practice and I have NO idea what she means!

Love y’all and keep those feet (and new cleats) clean!

Thoughts on the London Olympics Opening Ceremony

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The Olympics always bring memories to me. The earliest one I can remember was the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games. Papa Wham and I actually watched the “Miracle On Ice” when our ragtag group of amateur hockey players defeated the mighty Soviet juggernaut and for a minute, yes, we all DID believe in miracles. I also have distinct memories of Sarajevo ’84 and looking back at how beautiful the city was then it’s hard for me to imagine how devastated it would be fifteen years later.

I remember Mary-Lou Retton capturing all our hearts. I also remember little Kari Scruggs bravely vaulting on her broken foot to assure the gold medal for the women’s team. I watched Kurt Angle when he was a “real” wrestler; that gold medal he wears to the ring is real, you know. I saw the unbelievable happen as Roulon Gardner beat the unbeatable Alexander “The Experiment” Karelin to win wrestling gold.

In short, I really love the Olympics and getting to watch the opening ceremonies last night with Budge and the other half of our family at Deuce and Cam’s house was about as good as it gets. Long before the parade of nations ended, I thought about blogging what I felt, so here, in no certain order, are my musings on the XXX Olympiad’s opening pageant.

  • I quickly got sick of hearing how “No one could possibly top the scope and spectacle of Beijing.” Danny Boyle can stand proudly because this opening was every bit as spectacular and beautiful as ’08 AND he accomplished his vision all while dealing with labor unions AND volunteers who really were volunteers, not conscripted peasants worrying about getting shot if they messed up.
  • Was I the only one who — whenever anyone mentioned Danny Boyle’s name — kept wanting to belt out “The pipes, the pipes, are calling?”
  • Brazil does not produce ugly women. No female rating less than a 9 on the International Hottie Scale was walking in their entourage. I’m convinced the place is like ancient Sparta only instead of the elder warriors, a group of gorgeous supermodels are on call at the hospitals to inspect each newborn girl for completely overboard hottness and any who don’t measure up are sent to Puerto Rico.
  • Staying with the hottness theme, I don’t have a homosexual bone in my body, but Daniel “007” Craig is one fine, fine looking hunk of manhood.
  • Why does every other country’s costume show something to do with their culture or heritage or the way the world views them while OUR made in China United States costumes look a lot like military uniforms, right down to the fatigue pants and bere- . . . oh, I get it.
  • His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh looks extremely fit and well for approaching 92.
  • Speaking of the Royals, I think it was right sporting of Queen Elizabeth to go along with the festivities and allow an effigy of Her Royal Highness to skydive behind Mr. Bond into the stadium. Also, she’s not much for long speeches is she? “I now pronounce the Games of the XXX Olympiad open.” Sits. Poker face.
  • Those poor people banging on all those drums have GOT to have sore arms this morning.
  • I hope everyone sitting at home poking fun at the tiny delegations of countries like Burkina Faso and Tonga realized at some point those folks were IN THE OLYMPICS while they — armchair critics they are — never will be.
  • Anyone else wonder how many people soiled themselves when all the pyrotechnics blew up near the end? Worst part was just about the time you got your sphincter back on the chain, the bloody things went off again!
  • Whoever designed the Olympic Flame Cauldron needs to be knighted or raised to the peerage or something. That is the most beautiful flame holder in any Olympics I’ve ever seen. I just wondered how many times some guy was running around in the dark making sure all the “petals” were placed and attached correctly.
  • Anyone else think it was kind of Matt Lauer and company to cover Sir Paul’s quavering opening bars of “Hey, Jude” as being “choked up?” Paul isn’t a bass or a baritone and as anyone who heard Pavarotti or Domingo sing late in their careers knows higher pitched male voices don’t weather age as well as the lower registers. Still, “Hey, Jude” sung and played by the man who wrote it isn’t a sight to be missed. I hope Ringo was at the show and somewhere John and George were smiling.
  • Those youngsters need to brush up on their “na, na, na, NA, NA, NAAA . . . NA, NA, NAAAAA, Hey Judes!!” Sing it like you mean it kids and while you’re at it, learn if you’re a guy or a girl and sing at the right time!!
  • I’ve got to get some music by The Arctic Monkeys. That “Come Together” cover rocked.
  • BTW, where the crap was Sir Elton John? WTH?
  • Why can’t we Americans act like we’ve been somewhere before and walk in gracefully waving instead of lampooning around and snapping pictures non-stop on our cell phones? Really, people?! You’re in front of the Queen AT THE OLYMPICS for pete’s sake, show some respect.
  • How is it one of the probably four white girls in all of Zimbabwe has won 7 of the 8 medals in the country’s history? I may be wrong, but I’m betting she’s an immigrant or, worse, a colonial left over.
  • Why did so many of the countries have a taekwondo fighter, a judoist, or a shooting sports participant as their flag bearers? Were they afraid someone was going to run out and take the Armenian flag or something?
  • Speaking of the flags, Glastonbury Tor — the little green hill with all the flags on it? It’s a real place. Google it.
  • Finally, was it just me, or did anyone else hope the whole time the steel workers were “forging the ring” someone would pull a master prank and project a huge red eye on top of one of the smokestacks while hacking the sound system to boom out “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them …” After all, J.R.R. Tolkien was about as British as they come even if he was born in South Africa.

Enjoy the Olympics everyone! They really are one of the few times the best things about this crazy world actually come to the front and displace all the violence and sadness we see in the news every day.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.