A Good Problem to Have

I didn’t plan on becoming a soccer mom.  When my boys were younger – well, before they were even born – I imagined them becoming hockey players.  I would get them up in the morning and give them a bowl of oatmeal before Dad would take them to their 6:00 practices, and I would cheer loudly for them during games.  But this never happened.  Even then, at no point in my early parenting years, did I ever think that I would become a soccer mom.

When the boys turned 4, each was registered in the Timbits house league, practically a right of passage in town.   All of their friends played; I mean, ALL of their friends.  But as they got older, and their interests changed, they both walked away from soccer and got into other things.

Somewhere between chasing 4 year old Timbit players and going to High School, the oldest looked into working as a referee.  At the end of his grade 8 year, he took his first qualification course, CPR and First Aid, and he spent that summer getting himself to as many fields as he could so that he could work.  And he was good at it.  My 13 year old could control the field and the parents surrounding it – no easy feat- and that success propelled him to continue reffing during the following school year and summer.

soccer named ballsFast forward to the fall of 2015.  The Littlest Dude (TLD), entering Grade 5, decided that he wanted to play soccer.  Since the club was short of coaches and I was going to be there anyway, I decided to coach his team.  Within weeks, it became obvious that TLD was committed to the sport.  We registered him for another season, and I agreed to coach again.  When the Summer League opened, TLD wanted to play again – but he wanted more than a weekly house league; he wanted to play in the developmental program, which runs twice a week.

This year, it seems, I have officially become a soccer mom.  I am often helping my oldest with travel to his games or back home, since games can end late.  As TLD’s coach, I am committed to working with his team two nights a week.  And now, as he has eyes on trying out for Rep soccer in the next year, I find myself spending almost every afternoon taking him to a field, at his request, so that he can practise shots and play with his friends.  In an average week, I am making an average of 11 trips to any of the different soccer fields in town.

Honestly, I don’t know how this happened.  As a parent, I introduced my boys to different activities, hopeful that they would find one that they liked and would stick with it.  When they were younger, I told them, “It doesn’t matter to me what you do, but whatever you do, do it well.”   My oldest son chose music – played the piano, sang in a choir, played percussion in the band – and he was good, really good, in all.   He took swimming lessons and he ran cross-country, but that was really the extent of his interest in sport; his throwing himself into the world of soccer was a bit of a shock.  He refs, helps coach his school’s Senior team (grade 11 and 12) and mentors new referees.  My youngest?  He loves athletics but he never had any real desire to get involved in any kind of competitive sport.  Out of nowhere, something clicked; he constantly wants to play and, like so many boys his age, he wants to be one of the best. Soccer cleats

I like to think that my own racing and training have somehow rubbed off on my boys.   They have seen me throw myself into my running – especially during marathon season – and chase my own goals.  Secretly, I have been hoping that they would follow my footsteps, especially since they didn’t follow Dad’s path to the rink.  But they haven’t.  For whatever reason, at different points in their lives, both of them simply seemed to wake up one morning and throw themselves into soccer.  And they do it well.

Spending my time taking them from one field to another is a good problem to have.

 

On Coaching Kids

IMG_2035I’ve coached kids for years, so many years now that my first cross-country team is now grown up, starting their own families and looking for ways to get their own children involved in sport.  As a young teacher, I did it all: cross-country, volleyball, basketball, and track.  Now that I am more experienced and in a large school with other teachers who have their own set of expertise, I can focus on what I know best: running and track.

When my own children were young, I coached their soccer teams.   It didn’t take long, though, for them to walk away from the sport.  My oldest was a music guy; my youngest simply didn’t have the maturity or mindset to play a team sport.  It didn’t make sense to force them to play so our family went on a soccer hiatus as they became more involved in other sports.   This year, both are playing soccer again.  The Littlest Dude, 10 years old, asked me to coach his team.  My oldest shut down that idea.

Whether as a teacher or a parent, I coach because I want to.  I don’t keep track of how many hours I have put into selecting and organizing teams, corresponding with parents, running practices and competing; nor do I worry about the unexpected costs that can be incurred, such as buying relay batons for track or gloves for our soccer team’s goalie.  The excitement that kids bring to each practice or game and the occasional thank you (yes, thank you’s are far and few between) make it worthwhile.  I can’t imagine working with kids in a sport setting not being a part of my life.

Sadly, that is now taking place in my work life.  In Ontario, elementary teachers are currently in a Work to Rule situation.  We have been without a contract since September 2014, and our union and the provincial government continue to negotiate.   Among the issues the union is standing up against are increased class sizes and significantly reduced support in Special Education.  In order to show concern to the government, teachers have gradually walked away from tasks which are not assigned parts of our jobs, but have come to be expected.  This past Wednesday, all extra-curricular activities have been added to the list.  The government’s response was a threat to reduce teachers’ pay.

Like many other teachers I know, I already miss spending time in extra-curriculars, be it a team, an art club or an outreach group.  Docking our pay, though, is not the solution.  In fact, exactly how do you take money from someone for not coaching a team that they volunteer to run?  How do you remove pay from a volunteer?  As a parent, I completely understand the frustration that others have over the cessation of extra-curricular activities but it would be far more frustrating to see my 10 year old child in a class with over 30 students.  How could I possibly expect any teacher, regardless of youth or experience, to be able to manage a class effectively, plan, teach, assess, and report accurately?  Add in all other expectations, such as coaching and other many demands of the job, and our education system will certainly lose strong teachers; it will fall apart.

What we need is not threatening language or complaints. Public support and respectful negotiations are a must.  Understanding is essential.  Once those are in place, things will settle and we can slowly re-establish the public education system in Ontario.

Disclaimer:  The views and opinions above are solely my own.  They have not been endorsed by others.

Supporting Our Athletes on Home Soil

The boys and I have been pretty excited about the PanAm Games being in Toronto.  Now, for those of you who aren’t in Toronto, the Games are really being held in Toronto, Milton, Mississauga, St. Catherine’s, Hamilton and a few more suburbs on the other side of Toronto.  So, really, they aren’t just being held in Toronto and this makes getting to them a logistical nightmare; from where we are, getting to any of the venues takes some effort.

But so does raising a child.  How could I not give my boys the opportunity to see some of our national athletes compete on home soil?   Tickets are reasonably priced and they include the cost of public transit.  Soccer was the obvious choice as games are at the Tim Horton Stadium in Hamilton, which is close to home, one son plays soccer and the other referees the game.   For me, it is important that my guys see Canada play.

boys at soccerYesterday, the three of us dressed in Canada’s colours and headed to the GO station to watch Brazil play Peru and, then, Canada face Panama.  We got to the stadium in time to watch Brazil, Peru and their referees warm up.   Son #1 had his eyes on the refs and was obviously taking mental notes on what he could be doing  before he takes charge of the field.  I pointed out to both boys that a lot of the drills are the same as the ones that we use when running and reminded them that a lot of world-class runners use to be soccer players.  When I heard, “Look, he’s doing some accelerations!”  I knew that running terminology was becoming more and more natural to the littlest dude.  What I also liked was seeing a different drill – a combination of A’s and side-stepping – that I will use with the kids when I start coaching cross-country again.

Oddly enough, the first game between Brazil and Peru seemed to take forever.  I had one restless child who was losing interest quickly.   We broke the monotony of sitting by going for walks, getting a drink, and exploring the stadium.  Half-way through the second half, he wanted to go home.  I waited for the ultimate meltdown to occur.  “Relax,” I told him.  “When Canada gets on the field, the game will be so much better.  You’ll see.”

And it was.  Even though it was an 8:30 start and only about 40% of the stadium was filled (a lot of people left after the first game), it was the place to be.  We cheered, we did the wave (many times), we watched a beach ball being bumped around from section to section until a volunteer took it away, and we cheered some more.  The littlest dude asked for his ipod, which we brought for the train ride home, so that he could take some pictures.  There were no requests to go for a walk; there wasn’t any whining about being tired of sitting.  Without a doubt, he was happy.   And my teen?  He was thrilled that he was able to watch, not one, but two games with national level athletes.

Both boys loved the chance to see our athletes play so close to home.  We talked about how sad it was to see the stands so “grey” during the second game.  “Yeah, Canadians need to watch our own team play, not just leave,” commented the littlest dude. mom and drew And he is right.  Seeing Brazil play Peru was great, but supporting Canada is really what it is all about.  We did – and we’re going back for more.  Go Canada!