It’s raining and cold in Calgary which can only mean one thing: soccer season.That time of year when parents – for reasons unknown – sign their largely disinterested children up for an outdoor sport occurring several nights per week. Smack in the middle of the dinner hour.
It seems like a noble idea, what with all the pictures of severely obese children in the headlines accompanying dire articles about the state of children’s fitness levels; spouting words like ‘epidemic’.
But then the rain starts to fall and temperatures plummet and you’re feeding your kids junk food in the car on the way to soccer and you want to kick yourself for thinking four nights of soccer a week would be ‘doable’.
Not to mention the fact that your kids don’t even like to play soccer and run off the field the second anyone dares to come within arm’s reach.
This year the professor agreed to be the assistant coach for the Hen’s team. A duty he’d managed to avoid since that very unfortunate time when the Gort was three and a half and I’d volunteered my better half to be the coach. Also the Hen was less than two weeks old, so I spent matches slinging around a newborn whilst trying to civilly threaten a preschooler to get.out.of.the.goal.now or get.back.on.the.field.now.
As luck would have it, the ‘real’ coach was going to be out of town for the first week of the 2012 soccer season, which means the professor had to run the show. ‘You want to be my assistant?’ he recruited the Gort, who readily seized the opportunity.
‘Do you think Dad will introduce me to Henners’ soccer mates since I’m the assistant coach?’ he wondered aloud before they left for the first game. Assistant to the assistant coach, I wanted to say; feeling like an extra in an Office episode.
‘Do you want him to introduce you,’ I asked the Gort. ‘Yes.’ It reminded me of the scene in Bridget Jones when Mr. Fitzherbert asks Bridget to introduce him at the launch of Kafka’s Motorbike, because it will ‘add a lovely sense of occasion.’
‘You need to introduce the assistant to the assistant,’ I gave the professor a discreet heads up before he drove off to the game. ‘I know,’ he assured me, ‘I’ve already been told.’
The first game went off without a hitch; the Royal Blue Sharks crushing their opponents with a 4-3 victory. ‘What did you have for snack,’ I asked the Hen later; curious about what constitutes a communal soccer snack. ‘We had granola bars, and they were better than yours,’ the Hen informed me matter-of-factly. ‘Yeah,’ the Gort agreed – apparently being the assistant to the assistant comes with snack privileges – ‘they were these Kellogg’s Apple Cinnamon granola bars.’
I’m not sure the two of them could have hurt me more if they’d tried; preferring sugary sawdust-esque snacks to my homemade treats.
For the second game of the week, Percy and I joined the fun. Though using the word ‘fun’ to describe standing on the side of a cold, damp field while chasing a toddler is perhaps hyperbolic.
The Gort proudly wore a nametag that said ‘Assistant Coach’ and I again suppressed the urge to yell ‘assistant to the assistant!’ He was heavily involved at the start of practice, happily allowing the Hen’s teammates to chase him around the field. But he lost interest after that, opting to disappear into the trees with other bored older siblings instead.
Minutes later, I saw a grey and white sweatshirt making its way up a very tall pine tree on the side of the field. I abandoned Percy watching duties and ran over to the tree to urge the Gort to return to solid ground, while Percy seized the opportunity to run back onto the field and into the assistant coach’s arms. ‘He’s fast,’ one of the dads marveled. The same dad whose son spent most of the game crying and clinging to his leg.
Seriously, why do we do this to ourselves?
It was all going as well as it could when they stopped for the all important snack break. Except the person responsible for snack had forgotten to bring said snack. The six-and-under set was outraged, as if expecting someone to be outside for one hour without fortification was a flagrant violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. One of the Sharks actually said she wouldn’t play anymore ‘because she hadn’t had a snack.’
Finally, the world’s longest hour had passed and with empty bellies and numb extremities we climbed back into the van. One week down, seven to go.