Accidental Soccer Coach

March 4, 2011 by Jong Park

Every Saturday I take my son to his peewee soccer game. I enjoy watching the little dudes run back and forth on a miniature sized indoor field. Sometimes a soccer ball is involved.

I was chatting it up with a fellow parent before the game when I saw the coach run to us. He breathlessly asked, “Can one of you help me coach? The assistant coach is not here today.” The other dad nudged me forward and said, “JP is the man for the job.” To decline didn’t seem like an option.

As I awkwardly positioned myself among the five year olds, I said, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing.’ The coach assured me all I would have to do is “help out here and there.” He made it sound so casual and relaxed, but he was lying. What ensued was chaos.

5:00 The game starts with the boys lining up and shaking hands.

5:03 The other team scores.

5:06 The other team scores again. They all do the shimmy to celebrate.

5:07 The coach is showing early signs of cranium explosion as he pleads with the goalie to stop making binoculars with his fingers. The kid yells back “I’m checking out the sideline action.” Three little girls wave at him.

5:09 Three of the kids in the dugout (Is that what it’s called? Soccer heads, help me out here) huddle to discuss building a contraption that will help them win every game this season. As I listen to their brilliant plan, it’s clear they’ve just watched Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Toy Story 3. Score one for imagination and for the other team who scored another goal, in yes, less than ten minutes into the game.

5:10 Substitution of players. Marky (my son) moves to the goalie spot and gets promptly scored on. He smiles at me as if to say, “Uh oh.”

5:12 Breakdown #1. Anger breakdown. Hot tears roll down a boy’s face because he’s taken out of the game for rotation purposes. He vigorously protests, “I was only in the game for two minutes!” Uh, try twelve minutes kid. I know because I am the assistant coach and I’m totally on top of it.

5:18 Breakdown #2. Pain breakdown. The other team had a boy who kicked with the strength of Thor. He kicked one really hard and one of our boys stopped it … with his face. I could see the tears forming. The second time, he stopped it with, ahem, let’s say his man…boyhood. No tears this time. Just paralysis. He stood in the middle of the field until the pain registered in his brain. Then the floodgates opened. I felt so bad for the little dude.

5:25 Breakdown #3. Another kid started crying for whatever reason. I don’t even remember why the kid was crying but I do remember what happened next. Kid #2 walked up to the crying kid #3 and put his arm around him and walked to the sideline together. All the moms let out a collective, “Awww.”

In sports, there are those moments that moves the crowd. Sometimes it’s an awesome goal or an assist or even a player playing through pain for the good of the team. This time it was a kid’s arm around another kid’s shoulder. A simple act of encouragement and love.

As we get older, we forget these simple life truths. In moments of hardship, sometimes all that is needed is an arm around the shoulder. An empathic arm that says, “I understand your pain. I don’t have much to offer but I will stay by your side.” Encouragement alone can’t help us in life. We need good coaching too–someone who will speak truth to us no matter how we feel. But truth without love can be hard and cold. Jesus always offered both. The cross proves that.

As we try to live today for His glory, may we never forget that strong yet tender Arm around our shoulders. The Arm that says, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)*

Thank you Lord that you are with me, even when life kicks me in the face… and other places .

* The context is important. As we try to obey the Great Commission he offers us his great presence.

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