Somehow this Fall soccer season I got roped into coaching the 9- to 11-year olds team that Madeline and Abram are on. It had probably been somewhere around eight years or so since I coached youth soccer, back when Taylor and Ethan wrought havoc in the Corvallis league. The rust shows, as far as my coaching ability. I have a great group of kids who are fun to coach, but they're probably wondering if they're going to win a game this year. Our record at the moment stands at 0-4, with some of those losses pretty ugly. But it's not about wins or losses, right? I sure hope so. In my defense, the last game we played, on Saturday, was a very winnable game. But our best player was lost for the season two games ago -- his neighbor's dog bit his hand so hard it fractured a finger and he's in a cast and can't play -- and one of our other top players went on a fishing trip to Tangier Island (it's out in Chesapeake Bay and worth googling; oddly enough, ESPN is featuring the island in a commercial during this college football season) and missed Saturday's game. We lost 4-2, but Abram scored a nice goal and you can see him in the photo standing in front of me describing the look on the goalkeeper's face when Abram hammered the ball home into the net. Madeline is on the right, mostly obscured but slightly visible in a goalkeeper's jersey. She allowed no goals in her stint as goalkeeper in the 3rd quarter, in case you were wondering, though she did have one mental lapse when she tried to pick up the ball in the box while defending the goal. That was fine, except that was when she wasn't wearing the goalkeeper's jersey.
None of the kids on my team, called the Red Dragons, seem too upset over the mounting losses. I don't know what it is with kids these days. Am I the only one losing sleep over this? Am I the only one breaking out in hives as we occupy the cellar of the Gloucester Parks and Recreation 9- to 11-year-olds Premier League? Am I the only one trying to e-mail Landon Donovan for some soccer tips and to see if he could swing by Gloucester for a clinic? I'm thinking of extending practices for another hour. Maybe having them run a lap around the entire field for every goal that's surrendered. WWVLD? (What would Vince Lombardi do?) Somehow these kids are having fun. They smile and laugh! During the games! Sometimes even after the opposing team has scored 3 goals! In the first quarter! One kid came up to me after the last practice and asked if I was going to coach again in the spring, and if so he wanted to be on my team! This kid is crazy! He might go a whole year without winning a soccer game! If I use one more exclamation point, I might go crazy! Anyway, perhaps these kids are on to something. I think I'll give this whole exercise of losing but having fun a good think. In the face of all these defeats, these kids keep coming back. Despite the coaching.