Rec Soccer Coach
To be honest, you probably don’t need to know about my experience coaching kids’ soccer to make an informed decision about whether you want me on the school board. It feels a bit like one of those contrived “get to know me!” candidate things. And, to some extent, I suppose it is. But, it’s also true that in a lot of ways my involvement with the community starts with my experience coaching soccer. I started working in Lafayette back in 1999, but we lived in Monticello where my wife, Amy, was a middle school teacher. I really had very little involvement with Monticello. I’d get up early, drive to work, spend all day in Lafayette, and drive back. We moved to Lafayette in 2006, but (some non-profit board work with Legal Aid and the Howarth Center notwithstanding), I still wasn’t terribly involved with the community. Those years are lost in the fog of raising infants and toddlers.
2010 is when we moved to West Lafayette. Cole was starting first grade, Harper started kindergarten, and I started coaching soccer. The Sumy Designs soccer team was born. (Amy stopped teaching and started her Sumy Designs web design business in 2006.) At first, I was the assistant coach of a boys U7 team with my buddy. The next year, that buddy wasn’t available, so I became head coach of the U8 team. Then Harper wanted to play, and thought she’d like it if Dad coached her team now, so I signed up as an assistant coach for her team. After a couple of years as assistant coach for the girls’ team, the head coach needed to step back because his life was getting busy, so of course I’ll be the head coach of the girl’s team too. Eventually, I found myself coaching four seasons per year between the two team. If my math is right, that ended up being 10 years and 30 seasons. I was signed up again for Spring of 2020, but COVID cancelled the season. So, that’s probably the end of my coaching career.
Our teams were generally pretty average, and travel soccer was never on the radar. Nobody with my genetics is getting an athletic scholarship. We were just having fun out there. Early on, I thought parents might be unhappy about lack of championships — and I suppose some families headed elsewhere for that reason — but I had lots of kids on those teams that returned season-after-season-after-season. Involvement with those teams, those kids, and those families made me feel invested in the community. Don’t get me wrong, I like winning. I complained about blown calls more loudly than I should have from time to time. But it was never about winning, and I was firmly committed to things like equal playing time and teamwork. I did my level best to pick the kids up when they were down after a loss. Our motto was “play hard, play fast, have fun!” I wanted them to take a second to understand that, however the game went, they were outside on a field kicking a ball around with their friends — to take joy in that simple fact. Whether we were up or down, I liked to remind them “the score is always 0-0.” (One of my former team members recently threw that out at me in a non-soccer context, and I couldn’t have been prouder.)
At the end of the day, I don’t know how much they actually learned from me. I’m not John Wooden or some kind of mystic life guru or soccer expert. I’m just a Dad who coached rec soccer for a few hours a week. But I got so much from them. Every afternoon when practice was scheduled, the dynamic was the same: before practice, I’d feel lazy and a little grumbly about having to go; practice itself was almost inevitably fun; and afterward, I was really energized and happy for having done it. But the really interesting part has been outside of the games and practices. Now when I see those kids playing on the high school team, or in the band, or in the school play, I suddenly have a much deeper interest in those events. Even running into a former player or their family in the grocery store brightens my day.
It’s not so much the soccer itself that was valuable. It was and is all of those little ambient interactions that surround such events which bind us together as a community. And I recognize that our schools create those interactions on a much larger scale which is why they are so critical, above and beyond the education they provide.
Father. Husband. Hoosier. Lawyer. Candidate.
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