This spring, a friend of my wife stepped up to be the coach of her 5 year old son's soccer team. Having never played soccer and not knowing anything about the game, she enlisted me to help her out. I played youth soccer for about 6 years and rode the bench on the Clarkston High School varsity team. I was never very good, but I can coach. And I take pride in that.
That said, we are talking about 5 year olds. How do you coach 5 year olds? You can't. You herd them like sheep and make sure they pay attention instead of playing in the dirt or having a 6 man tag team match in the penalty box. I tried my best and frustration built. But I stuck with it because I made a commitment and I don't let friends down.
Fast forward about 7 weeks to Monday night. Second to last game of the season. We have an interesting lad on the team. He is a fan of Transformers and stuffed animals. He's not much of an athlete and his attention span is about as long as a labrador puppy. I will call him "Blake". Name changed to protect the innocent. As "Blake" approached the field I could see he was upset and didn't want to be there. His father was dragging him to the field against his objections. I had him play right away to try and get him into it. It didn't work. At all. He moped around not paying any attention whatsoever to the action on the field. After a couple of minutes, I subbed him out and he came and sat next to me where the kids sit until I get them back in. I tried to drag out of him what was bothering him. He whined something incoherent and I told him I couldn't help him if he didn't talk to me like a big guy. "Blake" tells me that his father told him before the game that "If he wasn't going to play, he was going to throw away his soccer ball". Naturally, this upset the little guy. I asked him if he wanted to go out there and play and show his dad that he did want to play. Nope. Doesn't look like anything is going to get this boy going.
We get a water break and I devote all my attention to him. Finally, it hits me. I tell him "Why don't you go ask your dad, if you play hard and have fun, will you not throw my ball away?" His eyes light up. It was seriously like flipping a mood switch. He jumps up and runs to his dad on the bleachers. I watch as he asks his dad the question. His dad assures him he won't throw the ball away if he plays. "Blake" gets a huge grin and bounds down the two steps of bleachers to midfield. He's by himself. He can't wait for the next period to start.
Play starts, and "blake" is running around with a smile. He makes 2 or 3 plays, the best he can. I glance over to his dad. I see a giant smile on HIS face. In a span of 3 minutes, I went from a sad 5 year old and a disappointed and angry father to a happy 5 year old and a proud "daddy".
Guys and gals, that is what it is all about. I gave up a mere 2 hours a week to help these kids learn the game of soccer. But little "Blake" taught me in 3 minutes what it's like to make an impact, albeit a small one, on a relationship.
And maybe I am overstating the impact I had. But it made my heart feel great and I smile every time I think about it. So the impact it made on me is huge.