Change is simpler than the self-help industry would have us believe. Complete life transformation can easily be accomplished by uttering the following phrase, “I volunteer.” Trust me – it works. Just a few weeks ago, I evolved in one typed sentence from a novice soccer mom to novice soccer coach, responsible for the athletic development and personal growth of 10 first and second-graders.
Fortunately, in-depth knowledge of soccer wasn’t a perquisite. I’ve attended enough of my sons’ soccer games to understand the rules and logistics of the game. But I’ve never used the word “athlete” to define myself, and my familiarity with organized sports is limited to a general knowledge of when and when not to cheer. Sometimes, though, life gives you opportunities just to see if you’ll take the bait. When the regional commissioner sent out an email saying my son’s team needed a coach, my inner voice immediately raised its hand and yelled “Me, me! Pick me!” I thought about it for a full five minutes before dashing off an email reply. Within 10 minutes, the regional commissioner had accepted me as the new U-8 coach, and my days of being a soccer spectator were over.
My son was ecstatic at the prospect of mom being his coach. My 13-year old son only smirked a little, and then asked to be my assistant coach. On the day of our first game, I was nervous, but ready to motivate the team to glory. As the ball was kicked down the field, the kids followed it like a swarm of honeybees…even as I shouted, “Spread out!” When the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the first quarter, 10 first and second-graders descended on me, all yelling, “Can I stay in? Can I play goal? Can I be a runner?” I struggled to remember names, assign positions and ensure that only six players were on the field as the swarm’s noise level drowned out the sounds of the soccer games on the adjacent fields. It was the fastest hour of my life.
By the end of our first game, the other team had scored five goals and we had scored one. I gathered my team into the huddle and we stacked our hands one on top of the other. I told them I was proud of them. “But we lost!” they responded. That was true, but they learned a little more about playing soccer that day, and I learned a little more about coaching soccer. The following week, I brought a game roster, suggestions for improvement, and plenty of encouragement. We lost 2-1, but when we left the huddle at the end of the game, it was with cheers and smiles. I no longer felt like a novice soccer mom pretending to be a coach. My life had been changed.