Last night was the first practice of the soccer season for my seven-year old. As the coach, I like to arrive to practice a little early. Not only does it make sure I’m not late, but it also lets me get in some extra time with the kids before the real practice starts.
When we got to the fields, though, our practice area was being used by the previous team. The little guy and I moved to a nearby goal that some big kids were using.
One of them was in the goal while the others took turns trying to score on him. I had my coach’s shirt on, so I stayed back a little bit to give them their space.
“Hey,” my son shouted, running forward. “I’ll be defense.”
They looked at him, saw how small he was, and then kind of shrugged.
He charged out and stole the ball.
“Hah,” the goalie shouted. “He stole it from you!”
My son laughed and kicked it back to the big kid. He dribbled it around and passed it to one of the other kids. Or, I should say, he tried to pass it. Prior to actually kicking the ball, he pointed and shouted, giving my son plenty of time to step in the way.
The goalie clapped. “Little guy is good!”
“Woo-hoo!” my son shouted. I smiled and stayed back. He really doesn’t like being called little guy, but this time he seemed okay with it.
Several more attempts and steals later, still no one had gotten a shot on goal. The goalie was laughing and shouting out warnings like “watch for the pass” and “he’s getting behind you.” My son had his game face on, and the boys facing him were getting really frustrated.
“Way to go, little guy!” the goalie shouted.
My son gave a little wave to acknowledge him.
From a coach’s perspective, their problem was simple: they took too long to set up each of their kicks. They were dribbling fine, but as soon as they wanted to pass or shoot, they’d stop and step back. If a defender was quick enough, he could just step up and take the ball.
What was really cool, though, was how the goalie had stopped making fun of the other kids. Instead he was cheering on his teammate, and really didn’t care that his teammate was about a foot shorter than everyone else.
What was even better? My son had settled down. He usually celebrates “beating the big kids,” but not this time. This time, he was just out there playing. He didn’t care how big they were.
I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season.