Guest Post: Sara Letourneau, on Soccer Coach Dads and Passion Pursuits

Courtesy of Tamara Bowman

You guys have shared stories of your fathers with me, and it often leaves me with a hope – a hope that someday, someone will think of me this way as a dad, too.

guest postSara Letourneau managed to meld tales of her father the soccer coach with her own realizations as a writer. In molecular science, experts refer to this type of phenomenon as … well, they don’t have a term for it as yet. I love her insight, though.

Sara’s closing in on completion of a YA novel, The Keeper’s Curse (not a tale of Elise’s travails in goal, although that could happen someday.)

Sara writes a remarkable feature called 5 on the Fifth that you just have to check out.

Please give Sara a warm CD welcome, and be sure to check out her work right here – as soon as you’ve hit send on your comment here, that is!

Storm Trooper Dad banner

When I visited Coach Daddy for the first time, Eli’s two primary themes (fatherhood and soccer) reminded me of my own dad. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, too. Last month, Dad retired from the engineering firm where he worked for more than 40 years. It’s an amazing and restful time in his life right now, and he’s truly earned it.

One thing won’t change during Dad’s transition to retirement, though. He’s an avid soccer fan; and while I wasn’t responsible for bringing the sport to his attention (I was the dancer in the family), my respect and appreciation for soccer sprung around the same time as Dad’s.

It was the fall of 1998. My younger brother Greg was 8 years old and had enrolled in his first season of recreational youth soccer. At the time, my family had heard of soccer but hadn’t paid much attention to it. That changed with my brother’s first game. Of course, kids tend to chase after the ball in one big flock rather than play by actual rules at that age. Dad, however, must have seen something that day that captivated him.

Within a year, Dad began watching televised soccer matches, from U.S. Major League Soccer to the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics. By the fall of 2000, he was coaching one of the town’s recreational youth teams – a volunteer position he held for 8 years and 16 seasons (fall and spring). Soccer was no longer his hobby. It had become a passion, mined in his quiet, thoughtful manner yet fueled by a motivation to understand the sport as fully as he could.

In hindsight, what amazes me most about Dad’s coaching career is not the depth of his love for soccer, but an unexpected coincidence: I see connections I’ve never noticed before between his passion and my own for writing. The more I consider those connections, the more I realize that these aren’t mere parallels that I share with my father, but similarities among people who follow their heart’s desires.

1. Passion inspires you to study the topic with intensity

Just as I’ve studied the craft of writing by reading, attending workshops, and applying relevant tips to my work, Dad studied the game of soccer by watching tutorial videos and televised matches. When he started commenting on players’ techniques and (*ahem*) yelling at referees over botched calls, it was clear he understood how the game worked.

photo credit: IMG_9805 via photopin (license)
photo credit: IMG_9805 via photopin (license)

2. Passion inspires you to work toward your goals

Writers have to write in order to improve their skills or be published. Finding that motivation can be challenging, but learning to listen to the muse and prioritizing our work is the only way we’ll achieve those goals. The same goes for coaching. More than anything, Dad wanted to help kids become better soccer players. That meant increasing his own skills by playing soccer with Greg in our backyard and practicing techniques he learned from the tutorial videos so he could share them with his players.

3. Passion drives you to teach others about the topic

My writing “career” includes a column at DIY MFA on literary themes and offering writing worksheets for free download at my blog. It wasn’t until I posted my first worksheet that I recalled Dad’s soccer brochures. He’d create pamphlets with soccer tips and diagrams of plays, then distribute the printed products to his players. And by sharing lessons and discoveries about the subject of your passion, you become a sort of a teacher, whether you realize it or not. (Of course, coaches are already teachers to begin with. *wink*)

4. Pursuing one’s passion can be fun!

Everyone deserves a reward for a job well done or hitting a milestone. It boosts motivation, and it feels good too. I like to treat myself to a nice dinner or a Cape Cod day trip when I finish a draft of my novel; and I did the same for a friend recently to celebrate her passion (yoga teaching certification). As for Dad, he ended each soccer season with a pizza party for his players and their families. Everyone agreed this was always the season highlight, regardless of the team’s final record.

5. Persistence and diligence in your passion pursuits can lead to success

During his 16 seasons of coaching, Dad took his teams to the local youth soccer championship six times (and won five times). However, it took several seasons of studying and experience before he reached that level of success. And with my poetry, I submitted and revised pieces to literary journals for almost 5 years before receiving my first acceptance letter. It was a long road, but one I never strayed from thanks to encouragement from others and belief in my abilities.

6. People will show their gratitude when your passion pursuits impact them

We all remember giving thank-you notes or gifts to teachers, mentors, and others whose dedication to their life purpose – or a favorite hobby – affected us in positive ways. But when you’re the recipient instead of the giver, it’s a whole other story. At the end-of-season pizza parties, Dad’s players would give him cards, gift certificates, or a verbal “thanks” for everything he did for them. Dad’s not the kind to share his feelings, but I could tell he was flattered and humbled by their appreciation.

Finally …

7. When a loved one shows genuine interest in your passions, it brings the two of you closer together

Soccer has become an important part of my relationship with Dad. Every June, for Father’s Day or his birthday, I buy him tickets for a New England Revolution game. Whether the whole family tags along or it’s just the two of us, these games are more than live soccer matches. They’re chances for “Daddy’s little girl” to spend time with the man who pushed her on the swings, built her a dollhouse for Christmas, and taught her how to drive. It’s my way of saying, “Hey Dad, I may be an adult now, but I love you.”

I can’t think of a better way to close this post than with an anecdote from Dad’s final game as a coach. His team reached the 2008 spring championship – and it was one of the most exciting soccer matches I’ve ever attended. Despite going up against a statistically better team, Dad’s players ran, kicked, and passed harder than they had all season. So, guess which side scored the winning goal with less than 2 minutes left in regulation? 🙂 I still remember the buoyant pride I felt when he gave the trophy to his team for the last time. In fact, I feel that way again now that Dad has reached the “golden age” of his life; and I hope he gets to enjoy this period for many, many years.

How about you? Do you notice any of the mentioned parallels in your passion pursuits?

What shared interests have helped you bond closer with your parents or children?

Sara 2015_2Sara Letourneau is a Massachusetts-based writer who practices joy and versatility in her work. In addition to revising a YA fantasy novel, she reviews tea at A Bibliophile’s Reverie and contributes to the writing resource site DIY MFA. Her poetry has been published in The Curry Arts Journal, Soul-Lit, The Eunoia Review, Underground Voices, and two anthologies. Learn more about Sara at her website / blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.

David Jeremiah quote


  1. Very nice post, Sara!

    I love when people are passionate about something. It makes life so much more interesting and easy.

    For my son it’s ice hockey.

    He’s been watching with his Daddy since he was a two year old toddler. When he was 4 he got really passionate about it. A friend gave him team booklets. You know, pictures of every player, their jersey number, position, previous club, trivia about favorite food,… He wanted to learn everything – that’s how he has learned to read!

    I hope now that your Dad is retired he can spend even more time for soccer and have fun out there!

    1. Thank you, Tamara! 🙂

      Dad’s soccer passion definitely made my family’s life more interesting, especially while he was coaching. He’s been keeping pretty busy since he retired from work (Mom has a “honey-do” list that updates whenever he finishes something for her *lol*). I don’t think he’ll play soccer more often, but he’ll definitely try to catch games on TV if he has the time. 😉

      I love your story about your son! Especially the fact that he learned how to read from the team booklets. Does he play the sport now? Or is he an avid fan from the sidelines?

      1. Next month he’s going to start his third season in “hockey school”, plus he follows the games on TV and via iPhone app. Need to know results, high score rankings, players who are injured? Just ask him 😉

        Good to know that at least after retiring form work stuff from the honey-do list gets done!!!

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        I’d argue there’s probably more work in retirement on those lists!

      3. Eli Pacheco says:

        Even offseasons are different for a coach. We use it to recharge, but probably a week after the season ends, we’re ready to get right back at it.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      That’s how football started for me Tamara – only I peaked at age 6 in my playing ability and just remained a fan.

  2. ksbeth says:

    it’s all about the passion. brilliant and so true.

    1. Indeed! Thank you for reading, Beth. 🙂

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      i thought you’d like this one, beth.

  3. What a great way to break down what goals our passions give way to and love how you likened these two passions here as if though they are fundamentally different skills, they also are indeed concepts that people can truly be passionate about, therefore having underlying similarities.

    1. Thank you, Janine! 🙂 And your points are spot on. Anyone who’s actively following their passions might be able to relate to those parallels I mentioned, because they may very well be part of their “pursuit process,” too.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        Even candlemaking or a life of crime must have those tenants, right? (Not that I’m condoning a life of crime … )

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      I loved the correlation too on this one, Janine. Instant hit.

  4. kismaslife says:

    I LOVE THIS! That last one wraps this whole post up in a beautiful bow. When we have a person who believes in us and all that we do, it is truly amazing what we can accomplish, through our mistakes and frustrations, the support and love through it all is what makes the end result the prize!

    1. ^^ Exactly! And it was amazing to watch his career as a youth soccer coach end that way, too. 🙂 Thank you for reading and commenting, Kisma!

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        Not everyone can go out on top like that.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      As a dad, Tiff, if I could have a day or three of doing just that, it would make me feel better about not getting a lot of the other parts of life right.

  5. Eli, thank you so, so much again for inviting me to guest post for you. This was a wonderful walk down memory lane. I’m still stunned at how many little things my Dad and I have in common that I had never considered before writing this post. 🙂

  6. Reblogged this on Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog and commented:
    Today I’m at Eli Pacheco’s blog Coach Daddy for a different kind of guest post. It’s less about writing (although the subject does sneak in) and more about one of the most important people in my life. It’s about a father, his love of soccer, and his (non-soccer player) daughter. It’s about the similarities in how people pursue their unique passions, and the little things we have in common with our loved ones that we might now realize right away. And, it’s the first guest post I’ve ever written that made me cry.

    You can read the entire article now over at Coach Daddy. And while you’re at it, check out some of Eli’s posts about his own experiences (both enlightening and humorous) with fatherhood. 🙂

  7. Kim says:

    Love this! My little boy loves to teach us about his transformers. Maybe he’ll end up in robotics, maybe not. The point is, he’s having fun teaching me how to transform them and Manning tutorial videos!

    1. Thanks, Kim! Love your example about your son and his Transformers. You never know where it might lead him in the future. 😉

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      There’s a universe of possibilities out there for a kid like yours, Kim.

  8. tamaralikecamera says:

    Oh hello to my photo!
    I’ve been on this weird passion journey (does that sound corny) for about three years now. I definitely notice everything you said. And like when your loved ones show an interest, in brings you closer together, sadly, the opposite is true as well for me. It does make me stop and look at the passions of those around me and see what they’re trying to show/tell me.

    1. It’s such a cute photo, Tamara! 🙂

      I’ve experienced the opposite as well, so I know how you feel. (I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate to include in the post, so I left it out.) Not everyone understands why we love what we do, and it can be discouraging. Then it comes down to how strongly you feel about your passion and finding the courage to believe in yourself and ignore your critics. Is that what you were talking about?

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        I remember a day I told Grace to leave daddy alone, he doesn’t have time to play – because he’s writing a post about being a dad. That was an eye-opener.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      I love that point – that maybe when we’re passionate about what we do, could it make us more cognizant of what fills that spot for those we love?

  9. Nina says:

    I loved this post! I try to encourage my kids’ passions by supporting their interests. So whether it’s art or learning about bridges or dancing to music, we encourage their passions and interests. We look up books about it, give them supplies, etc so that they have the tools and the time to pursue them.

    1. Thank you, Nina! And I love what you’re doing for your children. Nothing boosts a child’s motivation and confidence more than having their parents’ support in what they do. 🙂

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      Kids will find a way – I remember riding my bike to a baseball tryout my parents wouldn’t bring me to – but when we as parents can help the journey, I hope it conveys to the kid that their passions are important to us, too.

  10. queenmommyjen says:

    Yes! You nailed it here! I loved this, our passions truly inspire, motivate and help us to connect with those we care about. I really like encouraging my kids on those things that they feel most strongly connected to, well it might be a little hard with the whole Mine craft thing 🙂 I pretend well there! Thanks Eli and Sara!

    1. ^^ Yes, yes, yes! Thank you, Jen. 😀

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      Even with things like Mine Craft, there’s something … a way to draw on that passion. It’s not always easy to see!

  11. laurie27wsmith says:

    Your Dad and Eli sound eerily familiar Sara. Eli has a great passion for his family, sport and writing.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      That’s quite a compliment, Laurence – he sounds like a remarkable fellow.

    2. Don’t they? 🙂 That’s why I decided to write about my own dad. Thank you for reading and commenting!

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        Does this mean my girls are on the right track, Sara?

      2. I would say so. 😉

      3. Eli Pacheco says:

        I’m good with that. Really good.

      4. laurie27wsmith says:

        Actually Sara, I told Eli last year that I would have loved to have had him as my Dad. It was a pleasure to drop in on your blog. Cheers.

      5. Eli Pacheco says:

        One of my all-time favorite compliments, Laurence.

      6. laurie27wsmith says:

        One of my all time truisms Eli.

  12. Lyn says:

    Great post Sara 🙂 I see this same passion in my youngest daughter and my son-in-law as their oldest three (13, 11, 8) play soccer. The youngest plays in a mixed team and she is full on – she terrifies the boys 😀
    Mum and Dad make every shot at goal, (whether won or lost) every intercept, and every run seem like the child has won the championships. I can see the 3 year old and the one year old following in their footsteps because the one year old already uses his “little people” as a soccer ball 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      The whole world’s a soccer ball if you can get your foot on it, Lyn.

    2. Thank you, Lyn! 🙂 And I love your anecdotes about your grandchildren. It sounds like they’re becoming a true soccer family.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        It’s a bit contagious, I’ve found.

  13. Wow what an amazing post. This made me think about my own father which you often do but in a whole new way. Of the 5 of us, me being the only girl I find it weird that I am more like him than any of the others in looks and in manner. I am very passionate about some things like he used to be and I am just now starting to recognize my efforts and it’s amazing. I am also fascinated by these downloaded writing worksheets and I’m headed their next. I also want to talk to you about a group I’m starting with a few other women called the South Eastern Bloggers Association. If you interested in hearing about it send me an email.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      The days you see your father in things you do are great days for sure.

    2. Thank you, Rena! 🙂 It’s interesting how much we’re alike or different from either of our parents, isn’t it?

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        Do you see some of each of your parents in you, Sara?

      2. I… have no idea. XD Probably Dad, but more in terms of personality than interests. We’re both introverted, openminded, and goofy in our own ways. (I like to think I inherited his sense of humor.)

        Mom is more of an extrovert, and more serious. She’s also very particular about how certain things are done, and one of the most selfless people I know (a very admirable trait). But I definitely inherited one of her stress-related tics: dwelling on worst-case scenarios when something bothers us!

      3. Eli Pacheco says:

        It’s cool how we’re a mashup of parents, self and environment.

  14. This is a touching post, Sara. My mother’s passion for hard work on a daily basis (her office job, cooking, canning, piano, etc) has given me that passion toward writing/editing and the goal of being an author. My dad’s passion for reading has given me the same thing.
    I think our passion for finishing goals we set out to do is what brings us closer and let’s us relate to each other, no matter how drastically different our likes/dislikes/fields of work are. 🙂

    1. Thank you, E.! 🙂 It’s great to see you drawing parallels between your parents’ hobbies and your writing. I can’t say for sure whether my own parents influenced how I approach my writing career, although maybe Dad’s passion for soccer had more of an effect on me than I had realized. Like I’d said, it wasn’t until this summer that I made the connection. Coincidence? Maybe. But it’s heartwarming nonetheless. 😉

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      It’s especially valuable, I’ve found, when your kids see it in you.

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