We are not a terribly sports-oriented family (more into activities like hiking, swimming, kayaking...) but I do think it is important for the boys to be part of some team sports once in a while. They both enjoy soccer, and look forward to it each summer.
This year, they both have great coaches (which makes all the difference in the world). A few weeks ago, I was struck by how lucky they are. As you know, when the coaches are all volunteers, you get what you get and try to be happy about it.
On the night in question, Charlie's team was rather unattended, with only 5 little ones showing up. It was crazy-hot at almost 40 degrees (which likely accounts for so many missing players) and they were playing the most competitive team in the league, which in itself is frustrating, given that this is a recreational league for 6 and 7 year old boys.
Here are our little ones, exhausted and hot because they didn't even have enough players to make a full shift let along have any subs. The coach of the other team, who were scoring so much that we lost count (I think the final score was something like 18 - 0 for the other guys) was ridiculously competitive, and had the sportsmanship skills of one of those crazy-drunk-idiotic hockey parents that you see on YouTube. With every goal (all 18!!!) he paused the game, called his players into the centre of the field, and let out a horrendously loud "YEAH RED!! WE ARE THE BEST!!!!!"
Out little blue team was struggling just to stay upright, let alone score.
SO, here is what I want to say about our coach. William (the coach, not the son) is in his early to mid twenties. He doesn't have any kids. He was the last volunteer coach to join, and did so only because there were more kids registered than could play unless the league found another coach, and he didn't want any of them to miss out. He works hard all day, then hangs out on the soccer pitch cheering on a group of unskilled 6 and 7 year old boys as they kick the ball around.
And while the other coach was boasting around like a rooster and making everyone feel bad, Will was cheering on our non-scoring kids like they were true champions. He was high-fiving everyone in turn, and offering sincere congratulations on good plays and gentle pointers on how they could improve. He checked in with all of the kids, often, to make sure they were drinking enough and not getting too tired. He called water breaks so that they didn't get overheated, and told jokes to keep their spirits up. He connected with each child by name, pointed out to them when they did something they had not been able to do before, and made sure to praise them for their sportsmanship as well as they skill. Charlie left that game full of great things to talk about: how he was getting better at passing, how good snack was, how much fun it was, what he wanted to practice before the next week. He never even mentioned the final score.
THAT, ladies and gentleman, is a coach.