f you want to see two real superheroes (and a couple of top-tier dorkdads to boot) come down to our local soccer field on Saturday morning and watch the 4-5 year old league do its thing. These guys are the real heroes of Saturday morning. I am so impressed with their operation I feel compelled to share it with the rest of the world (or at least the half-dozen people who actually read this blog). They do it the way it’s supposed to be done.
The 4-5 league is all about having fun. It’s about discovering the joy of sports, without any of the pressures of competition, and that’s where the focus should be at that age. There are no positions. There is no score keeping. Everyone gets to play and everyone cheers when a goal is scored… no matter if it’s your team or the team you’re playing against. There are kids who are destined to be varsity soccer studs, and kids who are happy to sit on the field picking daisies. It’s about mom and dad (and baby brother) sitting there on the sideline in lawn chairs for the players. It’s about figuring out how to put the shin-guards on early in the morning. It’s about getting mud all over. It’s about orange wedges at halftime.
Now it needs to be said that not all coaches in the league handle things as well as ours do. We’ve seen other coaches get a little worked up when their 5-year-old players don’t follow instructions. But I have to take my hat off to our coaches. They’ve got it figured out. Without any compensation other than the existential joy of coaching a bunch of kindergarteners, they organize two practices every week, a game every weekend, haul all the gear, coordinate with all the parents, sponsors and other coaches. They make sure at every stage that the entire experience is about fun. When the score is running up (we have a couple of boys on our team who are REALLY good) they make sure that the stars pass the ball to their team mates who are lucky to just kick the ball during a game. When a player is feeling crabby, uncooperative and generally 5-year-old-ish, they gently remind the kid what it means to be on a team and coax them out on the field. When a kid is having a legitimately bad day, and really needs mommy/daddy snuggles more than the character-building experience of playing the game, they let them sit out until they’re ready to play again. These guys are keyed in on what’s really important at this level, and where the potential was there for my non-athletically-inclined daughter to be turned off to sports from the very beginning, instead she is having very real fun. She may not be Brandy Chastain, but she looks forward to her soccer game every Saturday. I am so grateful to them for setting the right tone from the very beginning. I love that she loves it (so far). And I love dorking out to the Nth degree on the sidelines.
There are all sorts of ways to make a difference in the world. For my money, taking a few hours out of your week to spend time teaching kids to be good sports and enjoy athletics ranks incredibly high on Dorkdad’s list of honorable things to do.
To Coach S and Coach J, I offer my heartfelt thanks – as a parent, and as a part of the community. In your own small but significant way, you guys are making the world a better place.