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Together again, with the best youth soccer coach on the planet

Submitted by on Monday, 1 September 2008 No Comment

Confession: I am butt over elbows in love with a married man. One with four kids, no less.

His wife knows, too. In fact, she called today to arrange a rendezvous.

“”Hey, Debra, this is Kim from soccer. We just wanted to let you know that you’re going to be on our team again this year.”"

Yes, yes, YES!!!!

Oh, and Big Guy’s happy about it, too. He loves Coach Joey almost as much as I do. Though it’d been eight months since soccer season ended, Big Guy dang near knocked Coach Joey on his can when we ran into him and his family at a baseball game in July. Some folks you just never forget.

And someone like Coach Joey you remember for all the You ever meet someone who oozes “”good people”" from every pore from the start? That’s Coach Joey.

I was never athletic and had never participated in organized sports, so I didn’t know what to expect when Big Guy went to his first practice about this time last year. I had my fears, though, of coaches who confuse youth sports with the big leagues, viewing it as their chance to earn the glory wrongly denied them as children or adults.

Plus, we take soccer seriously in this part of the country. Seriously enough that a city councilwoman was tossed out of a youth game as a spectator a few years back after continually mouthing off at the officials.

Coach Joey — and Kim, who kept everything from snacks to the game clock to the lineup organized — immediately eased all those fears.

It was their first coaching gig, and they hadn’t intended to start out with two teams. When they found out that one of their sons might not get to play if they didn’t step up, though, they wound up doing double duty. Kim was pregnant last season, too. She gave birth on a Tuesday and still made it to the next Saturday’s game — talk about dedication.

It’d been years since Coach Joey had played soccer, but whatever he might have lacked in X’s and O’s, he more than made up for in knowing kids. And keep in mind that these kids didn’t even know which way to run when the season started.

He taught the “”Dora The Explorer”" theory of playing goalie: “”When you see the ball coming, grab it like Swiper the Fox.”" His preschool and kindergarten players immediately got it.

He brought the game to their level — literally — kneeling and putting an arm about their shoulders when talking to them. Even when no one needed a shoe tied.

He carried many crying kids off the field and gently handed them to parents when a player got roughed up.

He had the good sense to pretend the players’ enthusiastic high fives burned his hand.

He remained calm early in the season, when our team couldn’t buy a goal, let alone a win. Not that anyone officially was keeping score anyway. He realized his most important job was to (slightly) organize kids’ play, not to create future World Cup players.

But most of all, his composure and enthusiasm made the season pleasant for everyone involved.

Best of all: One of Coach Joey’s sons is Big Guy’s age, so we can keep asking to be assigned to his team for as long as he’s coaching.

Or until Kim files stalking charges against me, whichever comes first.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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