'Tis The Season(s) of Being There
by Scott Beller
I now refer to spring as soccer season. This was not always the case and I did not plan for it to happen. I grew up and spent most of my adult life counting the days until Red Sox pitchers and catchers reported for spring training.
Then I had daughters.
Maybe if I'd had two boys, it would have been a no-brainer that I'd eventually become their Little League coach. One or both kids would have been a pitcher. I played the game. It's the game I've loved since I was 6. The one I'd coached and loved coaching in the past. The one I know best.
But everything worked out differently.
As I mentioned, I have two amazing girls. Well, see, the thing is, they both love soccer (among other sports...none of which are baseball). I did introduce Morgan, my oldest, to baseball in the form of co-ed tee-ball when she was 5. She hit, she ran, she threw the ball better than most, and sometimes even caught it. She liked it OK, but by the fall, she was lured by her friends to soccer. In the spring, she discovered you can play then too. Little sis soon followed big sis.
And that was it for baseball.
I remember the first time I was invited to coach soccer. It was the early spring of my youngest daughter Lauren's kindergarten year. I was on the sideline at the beginning of practice, just standing in the shade, probably checking the time on my phone and swatting gnats, when her coach wandered over to ask if I could help him out. At that age, "help me out" basically meant "can you give me a hand herding these cats?" He had an assistant coach, but it turned out the dad wasn't able to make any practices due to a new work and travel schedule. Since I was there and, as a work-from-home dad, I would already be bringing my daughter to practice every week, I figured, sure, why not? So, I said yes.
That was seven and a half years ago. I knew next to nothing about soccer then. I was out of my depth. But I knew coaching and I knew I wanted to become more involved with something my kids loved.
As we enter this 2021 spring soccer season – my 15th as a coach – it's begun to dawn on me how much I've benefitted from staying involved, even beyond the obvious joys of watching my girls play, have fun, gain confidence, value sportsmanship, and learn to be supportive friends and teammates. Despite my limited experience and knowledge of the sport when I started, my girls and I have been able to learn the game and grow together. Now that both of them are in middle school, becoming more independent, and prefer to spend their free time not with dad (and mom) but with their friends, coaching has afforded me the priceless opportunity to remain a regular and integral part of their lives.
Given the combined schedules of three soccer teams (two recreational league and one developmental league), my spring and fall Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and sometimes Sundays have been spoken for. Whenever I start to feel like that time commitment is a little bit too much, I remember it won't last forever. In fact, next fall, I'll have a big decision to make. My rising 7th-grader, whose team I've coached the longest, would like to try out for a travel soccer team. If she makes that team, it would preclude her from participating in the recreational league. My rising freshman may decide she'd prefer to try out for her high school team and also leave rec behind, or maybe even give up soccer altogether.
Just like that, I could be out of three coaching jobs!
At first, the thought of getting my weeknights and Saturdays back is certainly appealing. But it also raises the unavoidable question: when would I get my girls back? Will my full-time job of being a dad feel more like a part-time gig?
If you've read any of my last few blog posts, you know the issue of how to stay involved with my kids as they get older has been on my mind a lot lately. With the many life changes we've experienced the past few years, both positive and negative, I've often found myself reminiscing. But I've also spent time evaluating my past decisions, parenting behavior, and response to change. I've really come to appreciate the amount of time I've been able to spend with them creating positive connections.
With all that running around in my head, the one thing I can say for certain is I made the right choice embracing soccer as tightly as I embrace my kids. Not necessarily because soccer is my favorite sport (it isn't), but because it has enabled me to be with them, learn with and from them, and has given me yet another way to show my support for them as they pursue their passions no matter what those may be.
Come fall, my girls may move on and my soccer coaching career may come to an end. If so, I'll retire thankful and knowing things turned out exactly the way they should have. I'm a proud girl dad and I've been given a tremendous gift: time spent with my kids and cherished memories. I just hope my girls have gotten as much enjoyment and nourishment out of me being there for them as I have.
Scott Beller is the proud, imperfect dad of two mighty girls, Morgan and Lauren, and also Editor of the Daddying blog, DCG's Director of Communications, and a decent soccer coach. He's a seasoned writer and PR agency veteran with more than 25 years of experience helping organizations of all sizes reach audiences and tell their stories. Prior to launching his own creative communications consultancy in 2003, he led PR teams with some of the world’s most respected agencies, including Fleishman-Hillard and The Weber Group. As a consultant, he’s helped launch two other parenting advocacy nonprofits with DCG founder Allan Shedlin. His first book, Beggars or Angels, was a ghostwritten memoir for the nonprofit Devotion to Children's founder Rosemary Tran Lauer. He was formerly known as "Imperfect Dad" and Head Writer for the Raising Nerd blog, which supported parents in inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, and creative problem solvers. He earned his BA in Communications from VA Tech.