Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Are you scarier than a 2nd grader?

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve done a few things in my life that I never thought I’d do.  Go to Africa.  Skydive.  Drive across the country alone.  I was afraid to do all of these things—but I did them anyway and have enjoyed every experience. 

It’s time for a new challenge—and I couldn’t think of anything scarier than 12 seven-year-old girls.

I started playing soccer when I was about 8 and continued playing competitively through high school.  And I have always wanted to give back—to try coaching and to get the chance to inspire kids to play soccer.  And now that I’m finally staying in one place for a while, I decided it was time to cross it off the bucket list.  Everyone’s been supportive of this decision, but also wondering if I’ve lost my mind.

You can learn a lot from team sports as a kid—but I had never really thought of how soccer may have influenced who I am today.  I played on a team one year—co-ed and I was one of two girls on the team--and oh boy did we suck.  We lost every game that season and scored only one goal.  (Scored by yours truly, of course).  But I never stopped playing.

I originally wanted to be an assistant coach for an older girls team—but got suckered into coaching second grade girls.  Our first practice was terrifying.  What do I do with a bunch of 2nd graders while their parents watch from the side lines?  How do I show them all the rules in one practice before our first game?  How do I keep their attention for longer than 2 minutes?  What if they tie me up to the goal post and leave me for dead?

Turns out, 2nd graders aren’t so bad.  No, they didn’t listen to me.  Yes, they threw grass on me.  No, I couldn’t remember which one was which.  Yes, they'd rather chase me than learn how to kick a ball. No, they didn’t want to share. Yes, I had to play tag with them and run under their legs. No, they did not have any clue about the rules of soccer.  Yes, I made them crawl around on the ground and act like snakes, frogs, cheetahs, and other animals. And they thought I was saying “out of balance” instead of “out of bounds”.  

I survived, but barely.

Our first game was on Sunday—against the fierce green team (we are the yellow team).  I was able to be on the field with them as half coach/half referee.  Green had two advantages—the field was slanted downhill towards our goal in the first half, and they had more players as subs (fresh legs!).  After they scored 3 fairly quick goals my team started to panic.  When I told them that it was ok that they were not winning they shrieked back, “How could this possibly be ok?!”  One girl looked at me and said, “I feel like a loser!”  Nearly broke my heart. 

So I knelt down, and asked her, “Are you playing your hardest and doing your best?”  “Yes," she assured me.  “Then you can never be a loser.”

They started to get the hang of things after that, and scored a goal not very long after (talk about an uphill battle!) -- the smiles and excitement on their faces was priceless.  

We still lost the game—but I was proud of them.  And left the game no longer terrified of 7 year olds.  

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