Not Pelé, but still appealing

By Joanne Peterson | May 08, 2014

My 5-year-old grandson Adam started spring soccer a couple of weeks ago in a popular program offered through the Seattle parks department. I was delighted to drive to West Seattle to watch him play on a Saturday afternoon.

I arrived in time for daughter Lisa and son-in-law Eric to take a short bike ride before time to drive to the park playfield for soccer, which was scheduled for 3:40 to 4:10 p.m. This allowed me an extra opportunity to play with Adam and sister Abby until soccer time—a pleasant bonus.

After Eric and Lisa pushed their bikes back up the driveway after their ride, someone noticed that it was well past 3. This necessitated much dashing about looking for shin guards and helmet, cheese sticks and water, Abby’s sandals and sweater – and then a run to the car and a quick drive to the park for the whole family.

In retrospect, I probably overlooked the fact that this outing would involve watching a herd of little kids, ages 4 and 5, just beginning to learn the game of soccer. Did I think the kids would trot out onto the field and play an actual game for the half-hour time period allotted to their age group? Did I think the children would attentively soak up instructions from their coach, take their positions and play?

I think the program had begun only one week earlier, so I don’t know where I thought the little athletes-in-training would have acquired the skills necessary to play the game. In any case, quite a different scene unfolded.

To begin with, before the park department coach and his teen-aged assistant whistled the children to order at 3:40 and gathered them around, there was time for wild running about the field. Adam and one of his best friends, Charlie – who is a girl – chose to race one another back and forth along the edge of the park.  I wondered whether they would have enough energy left for soccer. (Of course they would!)

Then the coach called his charges to order. He and his young assistant distributed soccer balls, one to every child. Soon the kids were herding balls a fair distance to a row of orange cones and zig-zagging back again, some more successfully than others. Then they took turns kicking into – or at least in the direction of – a net.

The coach used one strange routine he obviously had introduced the week before. He would ask the kids to dribble the ball, which they did, haphazardly, all at once, in all directions. Then, suddenly, he would loudly call out, “Doctor, doctor, my knee hurts!” And quick as a flash, each child stopped and dropped down, one knee on the ball. Then back to dribbling. Then “Doctor, doctor, my ear hurts!” And the kids would flop to the ground with one ear on the ball. This went on with various body parts, until the kids were a mass of giggles.  Whatever the drill accomplished, it was certainly cute! I’ll report again, later in the season.

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