Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Match Pointless

Unfogged's LizardBreath has become the coach of a little kids' soccer team. And, like a Great American, she's not the least bit deterred by her admitted lack of knowledge about soccer. This: we admire. People, remember: half-cocked is better than no-cocked.

Now, despite my having, LONG AGO, spent many a year on the "fever pitch" (brought home an intramural championship for Dunnington House at UVa., thank you very much!), I really have no advice on how to coach the game. I liked playing defense because the job was easy (separate your opponent from the ball) and a lot of fun (you got to kick people!). So I'm not the person to come to where game strategy and skill drills are concerned.

I'll say this though: globally speaking, coaching is a huge know, I guess. And you might think, "Hey, these are kids. I'll just coast by projecting authority." Well, it doesn't work.

I should know. Several years ago, I needed some extra scratch. Noticing that I lived adjacent to some tennis courts, I thought, "Oh, snap! I'll teach tennis lessons!" I had seen some tennis in my day. I figured I had a good grasp on the game. Just as good as some dumb kid, anyway. And, hey! The balls were free! They were all over my goddamned parking lot, in fact.

Well, I thought I had it figured out. I projected a nice blend of authority and optimism. I wanted those kids to feel like they could conquer adversity and achieve their dreams--but I made damn sure they knew that they had to climb Mount DCeiver first. I tempered my more abusive criticisms with sunny, softheaded bromides designed to make them feel good about themselves. That crap they write on the sides of Starbucks cups really helped. Plus, everybody got free balls.

But nothing I did was evrr good enough for them. You see, I felt that the kids' tennis deficiencies were all pretty much academic. "Hit the ball," I would say. "Back. With the racquet." For the more advanced players, I would instruct, "Inside the lines." I would often add: "Ahh. You see what happened there? You hit the ball into the net. Don't do that."

Pretty top notch, right? As I endeavored to explain to these children, AT LENGTH, I might add, was that in tennis, you run to the ball and hit it back with the racquet over the net, inside the lines, and--preferably--away from the other player. What could be simpler, right? Once you've grasped that, you can play tennis.

But to these kids, it was like shit NEEDED to be more complicated. "How do we play tennis?" they'd ask. "Run over there! Hit the ball there!" I'd say. "How can I get better?" they'd query. "Run over there faster! Hit the ball there harder!" They'd ask me to be more hands on, so I'd stand there, encouraging them: "Good! That's right! Run there! Yes! Hit the ball! Good! Ohh! Look! You better run over there now! Run! Run! Hit it! Hit it! Good!"

But the kids just couldn't handle having something retardedly simple as tennis being distilled down to it's most simple elements. There was a confrontation in which my competence as a tennis coach was questioned. I said, thoughtfully, "Empirically speaking, aren't we really talking about your inadequacies as tennis players? Let's think about it." But all the thinking about it was interrupted by all their parents' demands for refunds and attendant threats of reprisal upon my physical person.

Looking back now, I can see that as a tennis coach, I had some shortcomings. Perhaps I waded into something for which I lacked an "expert" feel. It's possible that there are nuances to the sport that were beyond my understanding. Certainly, I should have purchased some new tennis balls. But life is a two-way street, I'm afraid. And let's face it: in my defense, it's not like any of those kids grew up to be great tennis players, did they? Did they? Well, ha! The answer is, outside of James Blake, noooooooo! They all suck.

Yeah, Like always. I had the last motherfucking laugh. Of course, I don't really know if there's a lesson to be gleaned on how to step in as a soccer coach and succeed while knowing nothing much about the sport. It occurs to me, actually, that my story probably does more to suggest that it's a bad idea than encourage LizardBreath to dive right in.

Well, at any rate, we definitely recommend that LizardBreath develop something more than: Run down there and kick the ball in the net. Because that shit is only going to tide her over for, like, EIGHT weeks. Nine at the most.

1 comment:

the g said...

my brother is coaching his first little league baseball team this season. Thus far, his only drill is making the kids chase him around the bases. I told him eventually there probably needs to be like: batting involved.

Also, he's had 6 or 7 moms volunteer to be team moms, which means they have no. faith. Thus far he seems unconcerned.