An Open Letter To Grace’s New Coach

photo credit: ShellyS via photopin cc
photo credit: ShellyS via photopin cc

Dear Grace’s new coach,

Hello. Receipt of this letter means you’ve made the intelligent choice of drafting Grace to play on your 7-8 soccer team this season. Congratulations. And warning. I’m watching you. No, I’m not that parent. I’m your friend.

Potentially.

Grace has had the benefit of a top-notch, incredible soccer experience. Yes, all three years of it. She learned technical skills and tactical knowledge and, more important, was allowed to flourish and develop her own sense of the game and all its nuances.

Continue reading “An Open Letter To Grace’s New Coach”

Froggies? Fireworks? The Day of a Soccer Coach

photo credit: leg0fenris via photopin cc
photo credit: leg0fenris via photopin cc

My girls have each won soccer championships. They’ve each lost championships, too. Wins and losses? Believe it or not, they’re secondary in the journey.

Why coach? It won’t make me rich. Fame and acclaim? None. My club and recreation soccer positions aren’t my gateways to a gig leading U.S. Soccer into its next era.

It’s for moments. Moments that feel small at the time, but loom larger as time goes on.

Opportunities. Chances when character is revealed.

Continue reading “Froggies? Fireworks? The Day of a Soccer Coach”

Baby Or Not? That is the Question for Grace

She’s just a baby.

Right?

Grace is the youngest, therefore, she gets that name. The Baby. I’m 41, she’s 8. When I’m 91, and she’s 58, she’ll still be The Baby.

Grace plays like John Kerry on this issue. Daddy carries her on his back, baby monkey style. But Grace also wants to do things on her own, figuring anything she can reach with help from a kitchen chair is fair game. She’s a second-grader who thinks like a high schooler sometimes. Good and bad.

Science gives me no concrete solution.

Theory 1: Baby status ends on the first day of kindergarten

False. She breezed through the celebrated 100th day of kindergarten straight through to graduation. First grade is a memory. She’s better than halfway through second grade. No, she’s not in driver’s ed yet, but she’s asked for cute boots for her birthday and I swear she had on mascara the other day.

She’s still on the Kissasaurus’ visit list. Still my baby.

Theory 2: A lost tooth begets big-girl status, officially

False. Her first wiggly artifact popped out during lunch at school. Many more have since followed, replaced by big-girl chompers that more readily resemble sharks’ teeth. She even uses toothpaste that doesn’t taste like cotton candy and her toothbrush isn’t shaped like Scooby Doo.

I bet she’d still let me brush them. Still my baby.

Theory 3: If a child requests crustless sandwiches and orders chicken nuggets in a Mexican restaurant, color her baby

False. It might hold water in the “I just want chicken nuggets!” argument (oh, and mac and cheese), but this argument falls apart at the mechanically-separated seams. Elise requested crust-off status on her sandwiches up until age 13. And this weekend, at age 15, she just left them on the plate.

So, false, thanks to Elise’s picky eating habits. Still my baby. Both of them.

Theory 4: A child who eats pizza with toppings is sophisticated enough to shun the baby label

False. She shuns all things Little Ceasar’s (although kids today have no idea how awesome the big rectangular pies they used to serve in the paper wrappers … can I get a witness?), and she’ll surgically remove any toppings (except for olives, but olives are baby food).

Silver lining: I get her discarded toppings. Still my baby. And SUPREME supreme pizza.

Theory 5: When she nets her first soccer goal, her baby status is traded

False. The score-happy monkey had many hat tricks under her belt the day she pulled my pants down between two busy soccer fields. After one particularly effective scoring game, she declared as she climbed into the car, “daddy, sometimes I’m pretty, and sometimes I’m dirty.”

By the looks of her uniform and the scowl on the other coach’s face, I’d say it was a dirty day.

But it sure was pretty.

In conclusion …

This is tough: She’s little enough to ride on my shoulders, and play baby dolls. She’s often painted up with temporary tats, susceptible to the cookie bribery (who am I kidding? So am I), and will tool around on pbskids.org while her sisters look at Pinterest and Star Dolls.

She’s snuggleable, but less tolerant of my scratchy chin. She made me a folder last season to take to Carolina Panthers games I cover for the Associated Press, with the left pocket labled “win” and the right “lose” – with happy and sad faces indicating which is which. I use it, after almost every game.

When she draws me, I’m still a stick figure with messy hair and a crooked smile, not the anatomically and visually accurate rendition her 12-year-old sister does. (Let me run on the treadmill another month before you draw me again, Marie!)

I asked Grace about her “dirty” game recently. She didn’t complain about the refs or the goals we gave up late in the game to settle for a tie, wiping out Grace’s hat trick. Babies are supposed to be all “mine mine mine,” right?

Instead, she gave praise for the girl’s effort.

“Did you see her stretching and running and jumping on the ball when it came close?” she reminded me. “She made some really good saves, daddy!”

That’s not so babyish. Kind of … big-kid like.

Me:That’s my big girl.

Grace:No, Daddy. I’m your baby.

I won’t argue. But only for the next 60 years or so … tops.

Promise.

What Sandy Hook Taught Me: Keep My Girls Close

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc
photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

Kiss your kids and hug them tightly tonight, you said, mom bloggers.

Reform gun-control laws, you said, concerned liberals. Outfit schools with armed guards, you said, National Rifle Association. In the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December, everyone had an idea of something to do.

Some said to ban assault weapons because who needs them, anyway, or to ban the term “assault weapon” because it’s unfair to those who love multitudes of rounds in their gun-firing experience.

What should I do, though, a low-middle class dad with three kids in two schools, a right-leaning registered independent who owns no firearms and could more easily match up Star Wars characters with their weapons than actually purchase ammunition?

Continue reading “What Sandy Hook Taught Me: Keep My Girls Close”

Hey Kids: What Would You Buy With Daddy’s Paycheck?

photo credit: Wait.. how do I work this thing? via photopin (license)
photo credit: Wait.. how do I work this thing? via photopin (license)

Moneybags, that’s what they call me.

Well, not literally. But the kids, they think pops is loaded. Filthy rich. Not just filthy. I suppose when you’re a kid, $20 is a fortune. Even kids today. What they don’t know is that Bank of America, All-State and Duke Energy draw lots for the bulk of my take-home.

The rest goes to Food Lion and Aldi. And the local dollar-menu joint. (Just doing my part.)

Grace asked how much money I make, and when I told her (note: this won’t be an answer on Go Ask Daddy), she acted like she’d just won the Showcase Showdown. The scheming 8-year-old mind never rests.

Continue reading “Hey Kids: What Would You Buy With Daddy’s Paycheck?”

Sometimes, Fairness is Overrated

fairness-lede
photo credit: taymtaym OKIMG_1015 via photopin (license)

I hope I’m many things as a coach.

Energetic. Understanding. Compassionate. Unfair. You heard me. Unfair. Because when I hear those words during practice, from the kids I love and teach and protect … “Coach, this isn’t fair!

I know the learning’s begun.

In my practices, we play small-sided games. Three against three. Four against four. No scrimmages. No full-field soccer. We set up little goals on the corners of the field, or balance a soccer ball on a cone, or three balls on three cones.

Continue reading “Sometimes, Fairness is Overrated”

What it Means to Play Like a Girl

Girls playing Soccer

You know about my advocacy of Girl Power.

My card-carrying membership in the Male Feminist Society.

The fact I love my girls three, and all they do, girly or not.

Some of that hits the surface only. It’s easy to be the advocate or card-carrier or love my girls. But to really immerse myself in this life of girl-rearin’, I have to kind of roll around in it and live in it.

I’m not about to reveal that I’ve been using their lip gloss, swooning over One Direction videos with them, or ordering my chicken nuggets with ketchup. But to raise girls, It helps to understand girls. (Like when Josh Hamilton’s character in “Outsourced” struggled to effectively manage a call center in India until he stopped to understand India, rather than run it as an American office. Recommended Netflix viewing, by the way.)

It’s not a new concept, after all. As a sports writer, I always appreciated the female rendition of games, and their contrast to what the sport looks like when my gender tips it off/tees it up/kicks it off:

Flickr - The U.S. Army - Go Army, Beat Navy

Women’s basketball: Played beneath the rim, yes, but with greater patience, commitment to passing and fundamentals;

Men’s basketball: Played above the rim, with score-in-droves urgency, with commitment to flair and showmanship.

Women’s golf: Predicated on the safer lies, the smarter approach, the reliance on a strong short game;

Men’s golf: Predicated on a belief that with a titanium driver, personal trainer and dry-wick polo shirt, we can drive a golf ball right *through* any quarter-mile thick grove of trees and *over* any major body of water hazard that dares stand in the way of us and a double-eagle.

Women’s soccer: Played with smarter defensive tactics, not just rough play, and with winning the ball at a premium;

Men’s soccer: Played with more of a prison hierarchy of defensive tactics, with punishing your opponent near your goal at the premium.

Want to know why the male cardinal is red, why the male mallard has a shiny, green head, or why those little green lizards puff out their throats whenever there’s a predator, male rival, or semi-attentive female around?

Want to know why we men have to buy a bigger grill, an automobile with more horsepower, a drill set with more drill bits?

Why we can’t stand to order lunch without supersizing?

We feel we have to go big, or go home, as it’s been said.

Sports icon

And it’s precisely why, when we play sports, we try to kill it.

Mash it.

Crash it.

Wind up in a SportsCenter highlight.

I’m as guilty as the next.

I couldn’t understand why my throw in Wii bowling would curve so severely, and wind up toppling three pins despite the thunder I brought with the hardest fling of the controller I could muster.

Grr! That should be a strike!! I remembered days of my youth bowling for real, with materials, not computers, when my friend Nathan’s goal wasn’t a strike or a turkey or a 300 game – he simply wanted to break a pin. Just one. Break it because he’d thrown the heaviest ball he could muster as hard as he could.

Now that’s a story.

Anyway, Marie set me straight and bled a little of that caveman mentality out of me.

“You don’t have to swing so hard, dad,” she pointed out, then demonstrated a more effective – dare I say feminine – throw, which wound up with her on her toes, Wii controller pointed heavenward. (No, I didn’t add that flair).

I did take some mustard off, though.

3d,alleys,bowling balls,Fotolia,games,knocked down,lanes,pins,rows,spares,sports,strikesAnd bowled a strike.

This lesson played itself out on the disc golf course, too, where I’d unconsciously squinted my eyes and put my entire being into a tee shot, somehow believing I’d actually slice *through* any trees in the way, and my disc would land safely inside the basket on the other side. If only I threw it as hard as I possibly could without producing a hernia, hemorrhoid or aneurysm.

I began tossing to spots. Throwing with my arms and shoulders and pivoting my waste, instead of taking a running start like a javelin thrower on Benadryl.

My game improved immensely. I even began bagging long putts, and nearly nabbing unreasonably long shots, from 60-plus yards. Trees everywhere celebrated their safety in silence.

Again, a little mustard saved.

A little less puffing out of the red throat bubble.

An understanding that you can look the girl at the counter in the eye at Five Guys Burgers and Fries and say, “I’ll have a “little bacon cheeseburger,” and not believe you’re simultaneously forfeiting your man card, but that it says volumes about your reasonability; that it doesn’t mean you’d never make it through a round of ancient gladiator action, and  that you’re still a prince, or a badass, or whatever it is you aspire to be.

After eyeing a tough lie for his disc, sitting in a wooded area with a substantial oak tree between him and the pin, a player at the World Disc Golf championships turned to me, the official spotter of hole No. 7, and said, “I’d better just play this one like a girl.”

Edison Disc Golf

He did. And finished the hole in three strokes, not four, as he might have had he reeled back and tried to kill it.

Play beneath the rim.

Defend smartly.

Throw/drive to spots.

Because when you take a little mustard off, sometimes, it’s all gravy.