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VOICES / A Forum for Community Issues | Essay

Lessons From the Soccer Field

October 14, 2000|BRIAN ARMSTRONG | Brian Armstrong, a television camera technician, lives in Glendale

"Hey, Dad-dy, my soccer coach is a woman this year," my 10-year-old daughter said with excitement as I walked in from a hard day at work. "Wonderful, honey," I replied, in my heart thinking, "Oh great, another losing season."

On the first day of practice I was mortified to see the girls on the Grass Stains (no real men's soccer team would let itself be called the Grass Stains) running around the field, pulling each other's ponytails and laughing about things like boys at school and new clothing styles. After what seemed like an eternity, they finally settled down and kicked the soccer ball for about 10 minutes.

When game day came, we arrived at the field an hour early. "You know, professional soccer players get to the field two hours early and never stop kicking the ball," I said to my daughter. "Great, Daddy," she said with a smile as she ran off toward her teammates.

"Come on, Brianna, we're gonna paint our hair green today," they said. (Green? Wonderful, green hair ought to help score a lot of goals. . . . ) Once the game started, it was all I could do to stop from approaching the coach and yelling, "Hey, those two girls are talking to each other out there! Hey, that girl isn't being aggressive enough! Hey, our goalie is picking flowers and not paying attention!"

Well, at least I could set my own daughter straight about the rules of discipline and professional sports. "Brianna," I yelled from the sidelines, "don't you know why you're out there?" She looked over at me from the other side of the field and just smiled and waved. "This is serious stuff," I continued at the top of my lungs. "Your mother and I didn't spend $75 on this game so you could stand out there with a smile on your face, running around pulling at the other girls' ponytails! This game is about winning. It isn't social hour! If you want to win you've gotta get serious and act like a man!" The other parents just stared oddly, but I knew they agreed with me.

After the game I awaited the moment when she would approach, tears in her eyes about losing, and tell me I was right and that she wants to quit the team.

"Hey, Daddy," she said as she ran up to me with a big smile on her sun-flushed face. "'Did you know that No. 5 on the other team is in my class at school, and Christy and I have the same Beanie Baby Bunnies and Katie wants to have me over for a sleepover tomorrow night?"

As she took another bite of her M&M cookie treat and planted a kiss on my cheek she continued, "Oh yeah, and thanks for cheering me on out there today. I couldn't hear you but I knew you were rooting for us!"

I hope I can get that green paint out of my hair after next week's game.

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