Friday, July 5, 2013

Soccer Dad

Soccer Dad

I didn't want to be that guy. You know who I am writing about, that Dad that can't separate his issues from those of his kid. In my case it's my nine year old daughter and Travel soccer. I've encouraged her and nurtured her but always sat in my beach chair on the sidelines and read the paper while she played. I'm not the guy yelling at her, trying to coach her up in the middle of games. I'm the guy that peeks over the sports page to see if she is having fun. And she was. Until Travel Soccer entered our lives. Now I'm that asshole.

My daughter started playing soccer when she was three years old, a bunch of kids in a clot kicking at the ball and running up and down the pitch having fun. When she was eight she joined our local soccer club's GU9 team. For the uninitiated, that stands for Girls Under 9 years old. I know, she was eight and playing up a year, but she wanted to do it. She was a little too young, and while she played well, she didn't like the pressure of coaches yelling like maniacs, of parents yelling louder. I sat in my beach chair and read the Sunday New York Times and after the game I would always ask the same two questions; "Did you try your best," and "Did you have fun?"

 She always said yes, in spite of occasional tears. I felt she should play down the following year, another year of GU9 while the vast majority of her team went up to GU10. Unfortunately, our local soccer club is dying and there was no GU9 team, just the GU10 team, so she tried out.

Two days of tryouts with a trainer from the New York Red Bulls Training Academy, one guy who didn't know my daughter from the next kid, then four weeks of waiting, They were only going to take thirteen kids. Then another week. Then another week. Finally, the coach, who had known my daughter for two years, had a pool party for the team. The next day, the roster was posted and my daughter wasn't on the list of fourteen, not thirteen. The obligatory email came. It explained that they relied solely on the ratings of the trainer.

Being the positive role model, I emailed the coach and thanked her for all of her efforts on behalf of my daughter, explained that she had enjoyed playing for the coach and that she wanted to get better so she could tryout again next year. I asked the coach if she could tell me what areas my daughter could improve in so that she could be a better player.

No response.

The league assured me they would have a GU9 Travel team, or at least find a place for her to play. That never happened so I signed her up to play in a neighboring league. The director of that league assured me that if she played a year of intramurals and worked hard, she would make a Travel team. So, she did. Her team had a great forward, I'll call her Sophie, and my daughter, let's call her Layla, played great centering the defense. She played hard and her team went undefeated. And, she tried out for the Travel team.

Two days of tryouts with four trainers from the Red Bulls Academy (foreshadowing). I felt Layla was a step slow and not aggressive enough, but they had two teams and I thought she should have been good enough for the B team. There were three girls from Layla's intramural team, the aforementioned Sophie and another kid named Jo. I might be biased, but I knew my daughter was better than Jo and that Sophie would make the A team, but I've never played soccer so I wasn't sure. I prepared Layla for the worst, that she probably wouldn't make either team but we held out hope. After all, the league director had told us that she would make a Travel team if she tried hard, and she had indeed done that.

Two weeks went by and we expected the worst. In the meantime, her intramural coach had scheduled a scrimmage as a last get together and to hand out trophy's. The day before the scrimmage, we got the bad news, Layla had not made either Travel team. I was okay with that, another year of intramurals would be great, she had such a great experience. Then, my wife took Layla to the scrimmage.

Her coach was astounded that she didn't make the team. Sophie had made the A team and Jo had made the B team. Sophie's dad, a Varsity Girls Soccer coach, former college player, and the coach of two Travel teams was equally astounded, and was irate. He assured my wife that Layla was better than at least 7 players that had made the B team. His wife told mine that Jo was in her daughter Sophie's class and came to school two days before rosters were announced and assured Jo she had made the team. Something is rotten in the state of youth soccer.

Sophie's dad was so angry that he called some contacts in yet another town and got Layla a spot on one of their Travel teams.

Which leaves me confused. I may be THAT asshole, but I am not that ASSHOLE.

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