My youngest son has been sick off and on for the past few weeks, first fighting sinus troubles and then breathing. Last Friday, the problems elevated to the point where he had to stay home from school.
So on Saturday, I told him he’d have to miss the soccer game.
He wasn’t happy about that, and we compromised on him being able to wear his soccer uniform and stand with me and the other coach during the game.
As the game progressed, he kept asking to go in.
Finally, I caved. We were short players, and definitely could use the sub. “Left-side defense,” I said. “You don’t run, you don’t leave position. You don’t push up. Just shut down that side of the defense. If they come to you, stop them, and pass the ball.”
We play on surprisingly small fields, so the job meant very little running.
“And raise your hand if you have any trouble breathing at all,” I added.
He went in, and initially did as he was told, standing and waiting for the game to come to him.
“Not too long,” I told the player I’d taken out. “Get some water. Catch some breaths. You’ll be back to playing in just a couple minutes.”
I looked back to the field, where my son had just stolen the ball from the other team. Instead of passing, he dribbled up the sideline at top speed. When the other team shifted to defend him, he cut inside, weaving between players caught off guard by a defender pushing into their territory. He maneuvered back to the outside, and his teammates sprinted forward. Then, when he was almost in the corner, he crossed the ball to the center.
It was not a scoring play, but it was close. Our shot went wide of the goal, and the ref blew the whistle for a goal kick.
“Sub!” I shouted, then waved to my son to come off.
“What?” he said in protest as he walked off the field. “That was great!”
I pointed to the ground beside me. “No running.”
“But did you see me?”
“Yes, and so did your mom. No running.“
Mentioning his mom did the trick. He completely deflated and slumped over to stand with me.
I didn’t give him any lectures about trust or not exhausting himself or any of that. This one was my fault. I should have known better than to believe he wouldn’t run.
Never trust a “Yes, Dad.”