I was never a kid with sports talent and was content to be a bystander or watch on TV. It wasn’t that I didn’t love a good game, but that I was not the one to lead the team. I was never chosen in the first round and often stood on the sidelines keeping score. Therefore, it is surprising to friends and family that I coaching my nephew’s soccer team. I knew next to nothing at the start, but it is growing on me and the rules and plays are almost second nature. I even own a pair of top rated soccer cleats to take part in drills while coaching the team. You have to do some groundwork and listen to the pros, but you can be of some real use to a young group.
My nephew is like a second son. More than my own kid, he liked to go around New York with me trying out some of the fine food. We bonded over a plate of spaghetti on the east side. We ate hot dogs on the street, corned beef sandwiches at the best delis, and enjoyed homemade cannoli and ice cream that made our mouths water. As he grew older and his interests shifted to sports, I felt obliged to go with the flow and watch world cup soccer during playoffs. I loved that he developed the skill to play on a local team and that he wanted me to be involved.
Every parent, or in this case uncle, wants to be part of a kid’s life and more often than not it entails some kind of sports. At least I don’t have to go fishing, deep sea diving, rafting on the rapids, or skiing black diamond moguls. The role of a coach is rewarding and rich. You are a combination of mentor, play manager, and cheerleader all rolled into one. My skill seems to reside in rooting for the team and praising them after a game. I like to motivate kids and support their ambition. When you can turn around a weak player, it is a joy indeed.
It didn’t take much to keep my nephew happy. He is all smiles on the field and a great team performer. He isn’t competitive but wants to win. This means he keeps an even keel and lets others shine when needed. I am so proud of him even though I raised him from afar. I like to think that some of my wisdom rubbed off on him as we dined around Manhattan on our weekend adventures.
I am committed to moving forward as the team coach as long as I am needed. If my nephew moves on or relocates, I will be there in spirit for every new endeavor.