A soccer coach, at any level, must be prepared.
Pennies. Cones. Goalkeeper gloves and jerseys.
First-aid kits, including hair ties for ponytails. A line-up. A game plan. The right shirt to match your team. If you coach more than one team, don’t ever call them the wrong name, or turn up on match day in the other team’s shirt.
And don’t ever get caught with your pants down.
I’m head coach for two teams, an assistant for two more. I had a 9 a.m. game with Charlotte United in Huntersville. I coach Grace’s 7-9 team, too. Their game started at 10:15 in Midland.
Toss in a conversation with the team manager and a wrong turn on Old Statesville Road, and you have one late coach, changing shirts on the run.
I got an update from a mom by phone: We’re down 3-1, on our heels. The kids looked flat. “I’ll whip them into shape,” I sneered. “That’s what I was thinking!” she answered.
I speed, all testosterone-laced, down I-485. I tuned into 106.5 The End, listened to aggressive, angry music like a tattooed bouncer who just got dumped would, and put the pedal to the metal.
It felt like divine intervention when Rise Against’s song “Help Is On The Way” came on. I head-banged like I really knew who Rise Against was.
(Maybe I should have taken more stock in the fact that while I tried to find aggressive, angry music, I heard TWO stations that played Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day.”)
So I’m all in bad-ass mode. I trotted (really, I did trot) onto the field, eager to fire up my flat little Monsters (their real name). Three players, including Grace, greeted me on the field. Grace held onto my back, my shoulders, my arms, whatever … like a baby ‘possum.
I try to get the um, debriefing, from Chris, my assistant coach, amid the chaos of 8-year-olds just 15 minutes from snacks and juice boxes. Grace slides down my back, wraps her arms around my waist and …
Well, now everyone around Field A knows that Coach Eli wears boxers.
Green ones. With soccer balls on them.
Silky, at that.
I yanked up my pants. I sat on the bench. The team, for the first time since the Mesozoic Era, fell completely silent. Their poor, scarred retinas.
Somehow, I delivered the line-up. Rode out the 3-1 loss. Even made it through post-game snacks with curious little eye contact with my snack mom.
A coach has to be prepared, y’all. Pennies, cones, first-aid kids with hair ties for ponytails…
And a quick check of your coaching-pants’ draw strings.