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It takes a village to coach a soccer team

Submitted by on Friday, 5 March 2010 No Comment

She had the same reaction I did when she went to the pre-season meeting for soccer parents and found out that her 4-year-old’s team didn’t have a coach: This will never work.

The director assured everyone that the kids still would get to play because he would “coach” them during the games, but they wouldn’t have practices.

While that might somewhat work for older kids already familiar with the game, throwing a bunch of 4- and -5-year-olds onto a court with a ball twice a week had the potential to deteriorate rapidly into a “Lord of the Flies” situation.

This will never work, we both thought.

I didn’t do anything about it. Mayra Cardenas did.

I know nothing about soccer, she told us at Boots’ team’s first practice. But I know kids – she quickly added, explaining that she’d worked for years in various YMCA programs across the country.

She also had a teen-age daughter who knew and loved soccer, as well as a younger daughter who was happy to round out the numbers and provide enough players for a respectable scrimmage. Her husband joined in, too, when he could. He and another team dad tag-teamed coaching the goalies – at that age, it’s really more like babysitting the goalies and making sure they’re not tangled up in the net as the ball heads their way. Plus you have to know how to howl in mock pain at the strength of their high fives.

Between the four of them, Team Cardenas pulled it off in grand style. The eight kids on the team played, laughed and learned much more than they would have had they spent the season as the Headless Horsemen instead of the Tigers.

She slowly coaxed Boots out of his tendency to flop onto the court the second he was subject to the slightest bump. “The floor is not your friend,” she reminded him over and over for weeks, until he started to scamper up quickly.

She gently corrected him when, upset that a rougher team was pushing him, he pushed back.

We don’t do that, she said. It’s not nice.

But they’re pushing me, he countered.

We still don’t do it, because it’s not the right thing to do.

And much to Boots’ dismay, she made Big Guy a part of the team everyday but game day, letting him join in on all the practices.

Between two practices and two games a week – not to mention email updates about snack rotation and schedule changes – it wound up being a lot more work than she thought it would.

But she made it work, and eight 4- and 5-year-olds benefited immensely from her efforts..

Thank you, Coach Cardenas. I don’t know soccer either, but I know one little boy who had a great time this season because you stepped up.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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