Thursday, September 11, 2008

I also jumped up and motioned for a hand-ball foul. There are no referees.

Paolo is playing in the Fall soccer league this year, and it is both super-fun and excruciating. Paolo’s coach showed up to the first practice wearing sandals, his exposed feet as white as the ball. I lost count of the times Sam muttered, “I should have signed up to coach” when it got past four hundred. It turns out Coach Teva hadn’t signed up either; he got a call from the league because our team didn’t have a coach. Further validating his commitment, Coach Teva announced he would miss the first three games because his family was going out of town for a wedding. (For two weeks?)

Coach Teva appointed another father to be interim coach. Coach Sparky is a happy-go-lucky church dad who doesn’t know the first thing about soccer. A dear little man, enthusiasm for miles, with his pressed polo shirt tucked into pleated khaki shorts. I could gobble him up! He means well, but his advice to his players is along the lines of let’s kick the ball occasionally in the general direction of that net over there. Remember, this is the under-6 age group, fielding three players a side (no goalies) and switching them out every four minutes, and Coach Sparky is completely flabbergasted by what few rules there are: throw-ins, goal kicks and corner kicks. He can remind the players which goal to head toward, but once the ball rolls over a line, any line, he is lost. He once called the field a court.

Sam has been helping Sparky out with the kids at the games, and at the last game I got to assist with the substitutions. Normally a team has six players, so there’s no need to keep track. Whoever is on the field comes off, and whoever is not on the field comes on. It’s not complicated. However, we were a man down with the coach’s son gone, so someone had to make sure everyone got equal playing time. This was our second game, so I’d already sorted out our players. We’ve got the Bobbsey Twins, the blond-haired, blue-eyed Hitler Youth boys who carry the distinction of giving at least a tiny shit about the location and direction of the ball. Then we have the Bad News Bears, the three shorter boys who poke at the ball every now and then but are far more interested in galloping alongside their opponents and hanging from the crossbar of the goal as they get scored on. One of the Bears is Paolo, and one of the Bears is Emilio, and they are the worst two players on the team. How did that happen? In what world do the Mexican kid and the semi-Italian kid suck the most at soccer? It’s my own personal hell.

One of the Bobbseys pushing forward, while Emilio trails behind and Paolo skips.

Every four minutes throughout the game, I had to tell the coach who to send off. I’m not even going to lie: I was making strategic substitutions. I tried to keep a Bobbsey in the game at all times, except when the superstar player on the other team was on. Then I’d field the Bears because the kid was unstoppable; no point wasting a focused player. I kept my finger on the pulse of the game, taking note of which player’s energy was flagging and whose attention span was shot. Not that it mattered. If the score were kept (and it’s not; see how sick I am?) it would have been in the neighborhood of 39–1. I should be ashamed of my mania, and I am a little, but I’m too busy working out my strategy for the next game.


Azura said...


Dude, you HAVE to get out more. Never you fear, I'll be there directly.

deb said...

so, no off-side rule in little-league futebol?