Tuesday was the first practice of the year for a certain CYO under-12 Boy's Soccer team–a team I inherited this year.
It's my youngest son's 5th grade team, and I know most of the kids fairly well because I coached them all in clinic league back when they were in Kindergarten and 1st grade. But the demands of work, travel, and the crazy competitiveness of others who wanted to coach kept me from picking up the clipboard for a few years.
And today, I felt it. Despite some stretching and warming up,my tendons were not very happy with me. I turn 40 in a few weeks, and my body seemed intent on reminding me of that. But it's a good kind of hurt.
It's already easy to pick out who's got natural ability and who's got enough enthusiasm to make up for a lack of it. But I've only got a roster of 14 so far, which is a good thing–it means I won't have to make excuses to anyone for playing everyone in every game equally.
I ran them through some basic ball-handling, passing and tackling (that's ball-stealing for soccer-illiterates) drills to dust off the cobwebs, using my 13-year old son as an assistant demonstrator and easy mark. He's nearly as tall as me, and maybe a bit more athletic, but I can still rob him blind on the soccer field (in short bursts). Then I threw together two squads of five for a modified game of Futsal, and let them run loose for an hour. A 2-2 draw was settled with a shootout on a regulation goal–with me as the goalie.
Only one kid scored.
“Come on!” I cried. “I'm old and creaky, and I'm sure not diving for the ball! Put it down in the corners and it's a sure thing!”
But no, they all kicked for the middle, except my youngest son who decided to try to take it around to the side and kicked it into my shins when I came out to challenge. The lone goal still stood.
We'll fix that. I'm betting I'll be tasting some dirt before too long.