Saturday, October 5, 2013

Leave That Intense Man Alone!

I'm a little intense. It shows up in my writing but burns brightest on the sidelines as I coach my daughter's youth soccer team. I set out each Saturday morning intent on being calm and quiet but never accomplish it. It's not who I am.

Today we played the best team in the league. There's always one dominant team. I didn't have high hopes going in. I'm doing graduate work in optimism but tend to lean the other way and on my best days I only get so far as practical. We got shellacked by this team last time and, while we've improved, it's a tall mountain to climb.

So when we were up three to one (not that anyone keeps score), I was excited. With a two goal lead I knew that anything could happen, but it looked good.

They scored three goals and beat us. People claim that the win isn't important, that it's about how the kids play. That's bullshit. Winning matters. It's the measure of what we do. So winning is important, but losing doesn't mean we failed.

Divert to school a moment. Kids are forced to take standardized tests that are supposed to measure what matters. Passing means the kid is college and career ready (even in fourth grade--don't expect sense from departments of education, they don't major in that). Failing, however, means that the kid is freaking screwed. They aren't college or career ready, aren't moving to the next grade, won't get into "good" classes, and so on. Loss in the test game is devastating.

On the soccer pitch (I feel so British when I say that) a four-to-three loss such as today's is a little painful because we almost had 'em! But we scored three goals on the best team in the league. We held them to one goal for three quarters. Our four goalies are tiny things who kept their shots at bay. Every one of our girls fought hard and kept smiling. They didn't complain or get upset. They talked to each other, worked positioning, and listened to coaching. They all seemed to understand what a great game they played.

Unlike the standardized test which marks them as stupid, today's soccer loss marked us as intense and forceful, growing as individuals and a team.

Still, I'm a little too intense. I died a little with each goal the other team scored. I went with the ridiculous notion that any goals we score are due to the girls' hard work but every goal scored against us is due to bad coaching. At the final whistle, I was at my lowest point.

Which is why I should go into hiding at the end of each game. I need time to settle down and draw the right conclusions. After each game my family wants to talk and parents want to say "good game" while my only desire is to be along with coffee and time to write my way down from the intensity.

So, if you come out for one of our games, don't worry much about my intensity. It's okay and I channel it into positive energy for the girls. It actually helps me comfort the kid who catches a ball in the face and the crying goalie who was just scored on. The only kid I can't help on the field is the one inside me. He needs time alone to think things through, to understand what he feels, and to write on.