My Last Game Coaching Soccer

for Shaya

I started coaching soccer when you were a round-cheeked boy with tiny curls at the sides of your face and the smile of angels. I didn’t do it for the sport itself (though I eventually came to love the game); I did it to be in the cool sun with you on the green, green grass and the freedom to run and laugh and snuggle close to you and your sweet friends.

At first, it was simple: dress right, spend time outdoors and teach loving little boys the right direction to run. As you and your friends grew and came to learn the game, we introduced words like strategy and taught you that the speed of your mind mattered more on the field than the size of your bodies.

Our team 3 years ago…so sweet

I loved coaching. Four years straight, spring season melting into fall, playing through blowing rain and snow, through tears and smiles, through cheers and so many wins.

Yesterday was our last day playing together in this sport, my love, my last game coaching kids’ soccer. It wasn’t just my own son that I loved in the process; it was all of the very sweet kids who came and went from our team, the Finches.

This season, I knew from the start that it was time to be done. Our chemistry was gone – so many kids had left for baseball and with all the new personalities and families, we just didn’t gel until late in the season. With eight straight seasons of winning culminating in a solid losing season, we still had fun, still played the game right and clean, still came to know the exhilaration of running on an open field and doing our absolute best.

You’ve become a fine soccer player, my darling boy. But more than that, you are fine person. This sport – and so much else in our love-filled life – has molded you into the best kind of person.

Your heart is full, your smile grand, and when I see you on the field – and when you run off the field into my embrace, always standing as close as possible – I feel something bigger than pride. It is the definition of love.

Yesterday, when the children thanked me for coaching, some having played with us for the entire four years, I bit back tears. I am going to miss coaching so very much – not for the complexity of the game, because it is clear that I can no longer teach you as well as someone who knows soccer better.

But I am going to miss the beauty and innocence of sweet souls come together on the grassy field to learn how to play as a team, each in search of their own true light and stardom, each contributing in their special way the way they were meant to in this life.

I’ll continue to cheer you on – but I’ll always know in my heart that the best role I have played as yet in this life is to coach the innocent with a full swell of love, always emphasizing the importance of having fun and being a good kid over any exhilarating win.

P.S. Just in time for the World Cup – we couldn’t have planned better!!

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