A proud spectator of a fine duck

If you’ve ever watched a flock of ducks flopping over themselves to get to a piece of bread, you’ve essentially watched youth soccer, only the ducks are more coordinated and score more soccer touchdowns.

I don’t know soccer.

The decision to channel our, at the time, three-year-old daughter’s energy into sports was my wife’s idea, because apparently having her run on a giant hamster wheel to generate electricity for our house was, “stupid” and “crazy.”

I guess we know who cares more about the environment.

The first thing you discover upon arriving at the soccer game/practice/chaos is that this is where all the 30-something people are. After you have your first child you may begin to think you are the only ones left. It’s like living for three years on a deserted island, investigating a large fire on the beach and discovering all these other people coming out of the trees. I walked up to one dad, slowly reaching out to touch his face.

“…There are…others…?” I said, aghast. “Honey! THERE ARE OTHERS!!”

I received a sharp sting on my arm from her slap. “Do. Not. Embarrass. Me”, she hissed through clenched teeth like an angry ventriloquist.

“So, where’s the keg?” I asked another father as the first one moved out of face-touching range.

“What keg?” he asked, very un-dad-like.

“The one in which we partake in the festival of beer drinking?” I replied, sounding like a minister for no reason.

“There’s no beer,” he said, which made me think he may have been a woman.

“So we’re supposed to, like, just sit here and watch this?”

He nodded.

I paused to take this in.

“Sober?”

This did not compute. Granted I know very little about soccer, but I understood that one of the requirements of being a fan was gratuitous amounts of alcohol in addition to being OK with games that end in ties (likely a result of the first requirement).

After releasing our daughter, who took off towards the pile of soccer balls like a hyperactive hunting dog retrieving a fallen pheasant, it dawned on me she often had difficulty STANDING without falling. This was likely to end in tragedy as the kids were under the philosophy that the fiercer their uncoordinated kicks are, the better. After all, the more you kick, the greater your chances of connecting with the ball. At first I was scoffing at purchasing our daughter knee pads. After watching some of the boys crane kick with no coordination or thoughts of others around them, I seriously considered covering her in medieval armor.

After watching this activity for the first 15 minutes it dawned on me: there were essentially no rules. Parents can just walk out onto the field; security doesn’t tackle you or anything. There were at least 10 separate fields at the church lot, and I’m proud to say was MVP of all of them. Few things in life are more satisfying than scoring 20 goals against teams of three-year-olds who weren’t even completely aware a game was happening. I don’t mean to brag, but I also dominated the drills Coach put us through.

Unfortunately, the team names could use some creativity. For example, my daughter was on the Blue Team. Team names are supposed to be terrifying. Blue is not terrifying. What would the mascot be? A blue paint swatch with googly eyes?

I’ve always had an affinity with mascots, though never able to really connect with the main two in my life. In high school, we were the Mohawks. I couldn’t dress up in support because, you know, racism. In college, we were the mighty Beavers, which made me believe the school was late to the mascot-selection meeting. They probably had the choice between the Beavers, Antelopes or Neutered Miniature Goats.

After the “game”, I sat my daughter down and gave her my detailed scouting report on her performance, which wasn’t pretty. Then we set out to practice.

“If I have the ball, and I’m on the other team, you try and take it from me,” I instructed, expertly. “That way you can try and make a goal.”

“But that’s STEALING!” she chastised.

“That’s OK in soccer. Come on, try it. I’m going to score!”

She ran up and picked the ball up, carrying it towards the other goal.

“In soccer, you have to use your feet only,” I instructed.

“But I HAVE HANDS.”

“But you can’t use them.”

“Why?”

“Because then it’d be rugby.”

“What’s rugby?”

“Nobody knows. I think it’s a made-up game like Quiddich played by lumberjacks and angry folks who like punching.”

I have to admit, the entire thing is pretty fun to watch. However, I learned it’s apparently not “appropriate” to bet on the games or which child “looks like a crier.” Only 148 more weeks!

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Kelly Van De Walle can be reached at vandkel@hotmail.com or via message painted on his chest during youth soccer games. Follow Kelly on Twitter @pancake_bunny for more soccer tips and brilliant insights, for example he thinks that “angry ventriloquist” sounds like an aggressive lovemaking technique.