Our daughter had her first soccer game this week. What a night. But let me back up. We thought maybe we should put her in something “sporty”, because that’s what parents do, right? I mean, that’s what good parents are supposed to do, right? We tried to get her on a team at our local community club, but that proved fruitless for a number of reasons. First of all, our local community club’s website looked like it was circa. 1996 and said that you HAD to register in person on the following dates, so one Saturday a couple of months ago I walked over to see what I could see. Secondly, when I asked for “soccer” I was directed to a table in the corner of the gym where this one older guy was setting up. “What??? Mini soccer? No, this is real soccer. I don’t think we have mini soccer here. Marge!” Marge was the woman who directed me to this table when I first came in. She shouted back to “Ted”, my real soccer convener.
“Yeah? Whaddaya want, Teddie?”
“This guy is looking for mini-soccer“. He said “mini-soccer” like I had just asked him for a cuddle or something. “We don’t do mini soccer, do we?”
Marge: “Yeah we do, but Gary isn’t able to be here today. Remember? Gary has those personal things to deal with.”
Teddie: “Who’s Barry?”
Marge: “Not Barry, Teddie. GARY. GARY!”
And so it went, back and forth, across a mostly empty gym. I wasn’t getting a good vibe off of Marge, Teddie, or Gary (or even Barry) or whoever was in charge of the mini-soccer. I’m sorry Garry was having some personal issues to deal with, but if he couldn’t even make it to the registration, how was he going to effectively coach a bunch of four-year olds? I stepped outside and called home to say that I didn’t think mini-soccer was in the cards for us this spring. I thought that was going to be it, but my wife was determined to get our daughter registered, and we found a community club that actually took online registration, about a half hour away by car, which was more promising. I registered and paid and left it at that.
So fast forward to last night. We received an email from “Chris”, the supposed coach of our daughter’s team, telling us to be at a certain field at a certain time and to wear light blue. I assumed he meant our daughter, but just to be safe I stuck a Blue Jays cap on, for support.
This schoolyard was huge. It had enough room to successfully accommodate 6 separate soccer games with space left over for a baseball game. All the fields were occupied and it took us a few minutes to locate the rest of the “light blues”. I was startled to see our Moms there too, and then I remembered telling them when the first game was happening, and if they wanted to come to watch they would be welcome. That’s the operative word right there: watch. Just watch. More on that later.
We met Chris the coach. He seemed like a really nice guy, although he seemed to suffer from a bit of low self-esteem. He let us all know that he had never coached before and he didn’t really know what he was doing, but (and then he made a little joke) he did have a clipboard, which all coaches should have. I instantly liked him. His own daughter, Emma, was about our daughter’s age and was also on the team. He explained how each week was going to go down. We would have about a 25 minute practice, and then a 25 minute game against another team. The games would be four on four, and there would be goals but no goalies and no score would be kept. He said he wanted to emphasize “fun” and that every kid would get to play, which was nice. We looked across the field at the other team and were surprised to see that they were already doing ball drills, they all had actual uniforms (our team was just wearing a variety of light blue shirts: our daughter’s had jellyfish on them), they all seemed on the “big” side for four, and they were all wearing cleats! Cleats! On four-year olds? Almost every other kid was wearing shin guards, and my wife asked me if we were supposed to get them for our daughter. I told her I didn’t remember reading anything about that in the email (since I did the registration, I get the emails). My wife gave me the look which said, “maybe you should forward me those emails so I can read them so we don’t get surprises like this in the future”.
Speaking of uniforms, Chris said, “Oh yeah, I forgot. I’ve got this bag of jerseys here. Come on, everybody: pick a number!” It quickly turned into a pile-on, and our daughter stood sensibly to the side, but my Mom got the “look” in her eye and jumped in there to grab a jersey before they were all gone. As it turned out, there were only two numbers left: 2 and 12. I was hoping for 2 (Jeter!) but we got 12 instead. I had to think for a bit before I came up with a famous player who wore 12 and all I could get was Roberto Alomar. True, he is in Cooperstown, but he also had a reputation for spitting on umpires and allegedly giving a bunch of women HIV through unprotected sex. So maybe not the best number to get, but who cares? This isn’t baseball anyway, this is soccer: the beautiful game.
“One last thing before we start our practice. We need to come up with a better name than the ‘light blues’. Any thoughts?” I hope Chris did realize he was talking to a bunch of four-year olds, and he didn’t get any sense out of any of them. I was about to suggest the Blue Jays, when he just mumbled. “Blue Lightning? How about that?” and I guess it stuck.
Our daughter was a little hesitant to take to the field with the other kids. Since she just turned four last week, she was the youngest of the bunch, and certainly looked it. She wouldn’t even get in line unless my wife went out there with her. It was a little embarrassing, but Coach Chris was totally fine with it. They played a couple of rounds of “follow the leader” (all while the other team was practicing precision passing drills, I might add), and each took a turn kicking a ball towards the net. When it was our daughter’s turn, she kicked but it went wide and she got into a bit of snit. She was saying stuff like, “I don’t want to play anymore.” and “I want ice cream” and “I want to go home.” This did not bode well, and before we knew it, it was time to actually start the game.
Our daughter didn’t want to be in the first group of four, so she watched from the sidelines as both teams went at it. It was actually brilliant doing a “four on four” set up, because the kids could really get in there and no one was ever really far from the ball. When it was time for our daughter to sub in, something snapped in my Mom and she took over the whole operation. My Mom’s pretty tough and she prides herself on growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in a rough end of town, and sometimes that upbringing comes to the surface. She calls that persona “Roughhouse Rosie”, and it was always embarrassing as kids when my Mom would say something like, “My kids call me Roughhouse Rosie!” and I would always correct her in front of my friends, saying, “No no, that’s not true. I don’t know where she gets that from. I’ve never called her that, at all.”
Well reader, I’m afraid to say that “Roughhouse Rosie” made an appearance on the soccer pitch last night. My Mom turned to me and said, “Maybe she’s go on the field if I go on with her?” Before I could say that I didn’t think that was a very good idea and do you see any other parents, let alone grandparents out there, she took our daughter by the arm and marched her out onto the field.
“Come ON Audrey! Get the ball! GET THE BALL! Here. OVER HERE!”
I could barely watch. Not only was my 72-year-old Mom out on the field yelling at our daughter, she was actually blocking shots from the other team. I quickly calculated in my head the distance to our car and whether I could get there before any one noticed, but we were too far away. At one point, my wife went out there to try to get my Mom off the field, but they literally smacked heads in the melee and my wife limped off the field, saying, “I give up”.
Thankfully, our daughter’s shift was over (it felt like forever) and it was sideline time again. Our daughter really didn’t want to go back out there, and spent the rest of the game on the sidelines kicking a soccer ball back and forth with my Mom. “Jeez,”, I said to my wife, “she could be doing this in our backyard. What’s the point of us even being here?”
Finally, the game was over. Luckily we didn’t keep score, because the other team sure did a number on us, despite the fact that we had a 72-year-old defender for the first bit. I pried our daughter away from my Mom and made her come and listen to Coach Chris’s post-game speech. I thought at the very least she could do that. I’m assuming that’s what one does. I never played soccer; neither did my wife, actually. I guess my parents never pushed it and I would rather just get together with my friends and play G.I. Joes or Star Wars or maybe just hang out in our gazebo with a stack of books and comic books.
Coach Chris had nice, positive things to say about everyone, even our daughter (at this point, the number 12 jersey was off and on the ground, replaced by jellyfish once again). At the end of the speech, he said, “Who wants snacks?” and of course our daughter was in the front of the line for that.
When everyone was packing up (and my Mom was hopefully out of earshot), I went over to Coach Chris and introduced myself and apologized for my Mom’s behaviour. Coach Chris just smiled and said, “She really just got in there, didn’t she? I thought she was going to knock down some of the other kids. You can tell she really loves to spend time with your daughter.” I never thought of it that was, but Coach Chris was right. Our daughter is really the only grandchild that my Mom sees regularly. Her other three are on the coast, and she’s lucky to seem them once a year, if that. So what if “Roughhouse Rosie” makes an appearance now and again? We don’t even know any of these people, anyway. This isn’t in our neighbourhood and none of the other parents/grandparents seemed as, what’s the word?, as engaged as my Mom was. In fact some of them had their noses buried in their iPhones rather than watching the game. I guess you never really get to a point where you stop being embarrassed by your parents, but why couldn’t mine just stand and cheer and clap on the sidelines like a normal person?
The last thing my Mom said when we got back to our cars was, “Same time, next week?”