Prev | List | Random | Next
Early on in this deployment I walked past a sports field and noticed a cloud of dust obscuring the far end. Through occasional breaks in the cloud I made out a group of folks playing soccer. Americans, Iraqis, and other foreign nationals who enjoyed the game enough that they were willing to put up with the unwanted side effect of their efforts; lungs aching for air taking in dust. The "soil" in this part of the world is a fine grey powder, and the harder they played the more the dust would rise.
Most Americans still don't embrace the world's number one sport, but there on that soccer fields bonds were made or strengthened in a way that few other activities could do. When I was young we played an endless number of games that weren't soccer, there were no youth leagues and there was certainly no room on the high school sports schedule for such a diversion. But as a parent I found myself on the sidelines watching and learning to appreciate the sport as my own kids made their own marks on the local soccer scenes. They progressed from pee-wee version to the more serious levels of play, sweating the "cuts" to make the select team, traveling from state to state to spend weekends in tournaments, bringing home occasional hardware but more often not. Eventually one of the little Hawks would even rise to make the state level Olympic Development Squad and compete in one of the four Regional Camps that eventually determine the elite few that would have an opportunity to reach the pinnacle of US Youth Soccer, the US National Team. When I talk Youth Soccer, I know of what I speak.
Somewhere along the way I even coached a few squads, or assisted at least. A bit of my position on the matter here: That stuff about playing for fun alone without caring who wins or looses is for losers. Don't argue that point with me. Play to win. Play hard. Play fair. Be a team player. Accept defeat graciously, and win with a smile. But don't be consumed - it is just a game.
One season my daughter experienced the sheer joy of dad the coach. She's a great player, the sort that transforms others on the field into cones, minor annoyances, and generally feels her game was off if she scores less than 3 goals. She's a natural, and owes none of this to me. She has simply had that ability and poise from a very young age. There's a problem with being the coach's kid though: the coach is your dad. That means your dad is going to tell you things on the field, and that means he's going to speak to you in public and if you're a young teenage girl that is tantamount to the worst thing in the world ever.
Coach dad has two fundamental rules, and I will reveal them to you now. Welcome to the inner circle:
1. Notice the color of your shirt. Don't kick the ball to any girl wearing a different color shirt. That is bad.
2. See the great big net? Kick the ball into the great big net. That is good.
There are other rules for those who master 1 and 2. The brilliance of these two rules is that they can't be argued and they are simply stated. The horror of these rules is that the best players will violate them repeatedly during a soccer match. And if you are coach dad's kid, he will point out each violation to you as soon as it happens, and this requires that I speak to you in public. The daughter eventually only needed shorthand. "The shirts dear! The shirts!" after a poorly executed pass. "The big net, honey, the big net!" After each failure to shoot at an open goal. (Missed shots earn praise for the effort.) Such events were rare though, remember I told you she was good. And being also wise behind her years, she knew that dad was always right.
The next year it was determined for family harmony that coach dad would just be dad and let some other individual speak to my daughter in public if the need arose. The teams formed and we went to the park to meet the new coach. Surprise was in store. He was nobody's dad. In fact, he was a kid just graduated from High school the previous spring, and now was in charge of transforming a gaggle of seventh grade girls into a cohesive machine that could put the ball in the big net at will in spite of the best efforts of the girls in the stupid colored shirts. He had to contend with the fact that these young ladies were dropped off by their parents with cell phones left in their hands so they could call for a ride when practice was over. Within fifteen minutes all was lost, as one by one they wandered off the field and began answering the irresistible call of the cell phone. Half the girls tried very hard to master the fundamentals of the Beautiful Game, while the rest wandered about in circles, chatting away with whoever was first to answer on the speed dial list.
"I refuse to say it." My daughter said, breaking silence on the ride home. (Remember, this is a fierce competitor we're talking about here.)
"Say what, dear?" I replied, expectations rising.
"I refuse to say that I wish you were coaching." She replied. I had not as much as hinted at any concerns I had for failure on the part of her coach.
A great moment in parenting.
Let me add here that I find no fault with that young man, no one of his age and gender could have achieved anything approaching success with that group of girls. Insurmountable odds were against him from the start, but in fact he soldiered on, never quitting, never showing the slightest sign of frustration with his task. He even brought along a couple assistants, two young exchange students from Germany - his family was hosting them for the year. They had grown up playing the sport, of course, they were good and they got the girls attention by simply being foreign, and things began to improve. The season was a fairly good one, my daughter worked hard and excelled, and all was right with the world.
I truly admired the young guy for his efforts, for his determination and for his willingness to take on such a task without any pay whatsoever. He had no little sister on the team, no friend of the family; he was just a guy who loved the sport and wanted to keep involved. I found out something else about the young coach along the way. His dad was Air Force, and he himself was going to join the military, and was coaching to fill the time on delayed entry. Shortly after the season's end he was off to basic. Within a few months we were off to Europe and we lost contact and to tell the truth I hadn't thought of that fine young man in years. If you asked me yesterday what that guy's name was I probably couldn't have said.
Today I remember it quite well because it's the first thing I read in the New York Times story about him.
Somewhere I imagine another team will have a new coach soon. And if they aren't too busy with their cell phones and other distractions they'll probably learn a lot from him.
And they'll be winners, of that I'm sure.
That's a great story! Let us not forget SPC Danny Titus and the many heroes just like him.
Thank You!Posted by thebronze at January 20, 2005 08:50 PM
Did you show the article to your daughter? What was her reaction?Posted by Byna at January 20, 2005 09:44 PM
It's a small world, and it seems to be getting smaller all the time, doesn't it ?
Glad to hear he is recovering. Bless all those who serve.
Wonderful story about your daughter. I've been reading your blog for a while now and think I may have commented once or twice, but events that took place this week have prompted me to write to you today.
My Aunt passed away this week. Coming from a Catholic family, she leaves behind 5 of 6 children she gave birth to and I'm not sure how many grandchildren.
Of course all have flown in for the services. I have always been close to the kids from this Aunt. The one cousin no longer living was my best friend all the years growing up and into adulthood.
You can imagine with that many grandchildren (a couple of great-grandchildren) it was mayham at my cousins house, so my husband and I had a dinner for all of the kids (yeah right, the oldest is 30).
We hosted a dinner for 16, four of which are serving our country and were granted emergency leave via the Red Cross.
The longest serving is a soldier who has already served on two war fronts: Bosnia and Korea -- he returns to Kuwait 1/30, the next senior in rank is an E5 sailor from the USS Eisenhower -- believe it or not, he has not set sail yet in his 5 1/2 years, you can imagine the ribbing he got. There is another soldier, married into the family and the baby is a fresh Marine recruit from Pendelton.
Until this point we had no family serving in harms way, so we donated and supported other soldiers and marines with money and gifts, including Sgt Hooks Soles for Afghanistan -- all before we bought our own Christmas gifts.
It was such a pleasure to watch these young kids for four hours. They played with my granddaughter's remote control Hummer and Mustangs-- no competition. Listen to them talk as the young do about whatever. And listen to them talk about their deployment orders.
They will all be in Iraq by June (except for the sailor who should be off the coast IF they get the darn thing fixed).
The senior soldier's mission will be to guard the newley elected officials -- scary mission.
It is a lot easier to support and defend our soldiers when its not your blood or bloodline -- now I will have 4 of my family in harms way -- as soon as 1/30 and as late as June.
I have been reading your blog and the deeply missed Sgt Hook as well as others for a while now. I appreciate the time you take to keep us informed as to what is really happening. We all know about the MSM.
I wanted to write to you this am to thank you for your dedication to this country and our youth. It must be a very heavy burden on your shoulders. I also want you to know that I feel much better knowing it's men like you Sgt Hook, Blackfive at one time who are leading the future of our country and my family into the horrors of war.
I trust you will keep them safe, coach them well, and depart the many lessons of life and war you have learned. I can't imagine your burden, but I appreciate your willingness to do so.
I know you are a good man and our services are full of them.
Thank you --- please watch over my family and all the other young soldiers entrusted to you.
May God richly bless you and your family for your sacrifice.
PS sorry I have to post without spell check etc, puter problems, but I wanted this to get to youPosted by cheryl at January 21, 2005 12:42 PM
I was a dad/coach for several years in AYSO.
I remained on their mailing list for some time after that.
When I got their magazine in the winter of 1990-1991, there was an article about how many leagues were facing a shortage of adults as coaches and officials because they'd been deployed, or, if Reseve Component, called up.
Interesting that service doesn't mean just the military to these men and women. Set them down anyplace and they'll find something to fix and somebody who needs help.
What a nice memorial to this young man - we don't often let teachers, coaches, etc know how important their contributions are to our children.
I hope you pass on Greyhawk's tribute to him so he knows that he made a difference not only now but in the past as a coach and now as a military hero.