That’s me, the jerk screaming at the kid’s soccer game

It’s last Saturday, and Eli is practicing with his new soccer team on a warm day. His coach, an agreeable enough guy, is standing on the field silently watching the kids, some of whom are kicking soccer balls, some of whom are hanging out with their parents, one of whom is sitting on the field next to the goal doing nothing.

This is practice, but I’m not sure that they’re actually practicing. I mean, the coach isn’t leading drills. He isn’t organizing games. In fact, I’m not entirely sure he’s even speaking to the boys and girls. He’s just standing there, enjoying the pleasant March morning, looking on vacantly like he’s stoned clean out of his noodle.

As I watch practice or whatever this is, I become increasingly agitated.

Pacing, I ask Sally, “What, exactly, is he doing?” I point a finger towards the coach who is immobile, a glazed expression on his face, his mind someplace far away.

My wife shrugs. “Not a whole lot.”

Exactly. Not a whole lot. I pace and mutter to myself and pace and 20 minutes pass and the kids don’t do much of anything.

And that’s practice.

Immediately after practice, the game, the first one of the season, begins.

A few seconds into the game, one of the kids kicks the ball way out-of-bounds, but rather than stopping the action to retrieve the ball, the coaches, who serve as officials in kindergarten soccer, look on as the ball zooms through a family picnicking on a blanket. The kids blast through the middle of the picnic, the ball still live, the game still careening along.

“Why aren’t they stopping the game?” I ask Sally.

“What?,” she replies, distracted by Slade, who keeps finding crunched up Goldfish crackers in the dirt and eating them. “Oh. Beats me.”  

I run my hand through my hair.

I pace.

A boy on Eli’s team boots the ball into the middle of another field, where other teams are playing, and the games collide, four teams on one field. I yell for Eli’s team to kick the ball back towards our field, and I pace, and our coach remains silent, and veins pop out of my neck. I wouldn’t be surprised if my left eye is starting to twitch now.

And that’s the first quarter.

At the start of the next quarter, the coach’s own son rips the soccer ball away from Emily—a small and smiling teammate—and tells her, “It’s mine!” The coach watches his boy wordlessly.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I mutter.

“Huh?” Sally says, pulling Goldfish, earth, and yellow grass out of Slade’s smiling mouth.

A few minutes later, the same brat yanks the ball away from another girl and again his dad, the coach, does nothing, and again I, the dumbfounded spectator, walk and rub my hands together and mumble to myself.

And that’s the second quarter.

After halftime, the coach asks if I’ll take over for a few minutes while he consoles his son, who is red and screaming about something and swinging at anyone who gets close. Gladly, I tell him, and jog onto the field.

Being out there with the kids comes easy, and as I’m running and encouraging and coaching, I’m no longer angry or dismayed or appalled. I’m relieved, actually, and I’m having fun.

I must miss coaching. That sinks in as we drive home after the game.

It also dawns on me that I’m becoming tidy and rulesy as I age. I want the weeds pulled and the bed made and the damn soccer ball to stay in bounds.

And then I realize something else.

“You know those pathetic dads who swear at the coach and punch the umpire and get banned for life from their children’s T-ball games,” I tell Sally.  

She nods.

“That’s me. That’s what I’m becoming.”

She smiles, pats me on the shoulder, and doesn’t say a word.  This is her way of telling me she loves me anyway.


2 Responses to “That’s me, the jerk screaming at the kid’s soccer game”

  1. 1 feeddunk March 18, 2010 at 5:36 am

    This is so me. I have been a coach for 3 years now and thats even worse. I’m THAT coach that stands there yelling WTF are you kids doing!

  2. 2 Laura March 19, 2010 at 8:13 am

    It’s sweet to see how you boys have grown!

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