It is the end of the season. Today is the first official free evening of an official practice night that we aren’t at the soccer field for two and a half hours. It is bittersweet, with an emphasis on the sweet. I won’t miss the polka dot mud trails on the kitchen floor. I won’t miss the smell of the soccer bag left too long in the rain that overtakes the ability to inhale in my car. I won’t miss the rush. The we-are-going-to-be-late blur of school meets soccer afternoons. And having games on all of the Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from September through November. It is consuming when we are in the trenches of it. It is hard to imagine a weekend free of the all-encompassing logistics of it all.
The bitter part is that part of me loves it. I adore and believe in those kids. It is an honor to see how much they can grow in a few short months. I help coach both of my sons all-boys teams because I want them to see that I have earned a voice on the sideline too. I help coach alongside their father because even though we are not together, we can come together for the greater benefit of helping to shape the character of the boys on the field, if only for a few hours a week. I help coach because I think it is a good thing for our children to have more adults in their lives that tell them that they are proud of them.
I wasn’t originally going to help coach Niko’s team. They are U12, 5th and 6th graders, 10- and 11-year-olds. They had Steve and another amazing coach, Kyle. I didn’t think I would be needed. In the way life unravels and pulls us, I was needed at first when one of the main coaches couldn’t make a practice or a game. But then I stayed. Because I saw.
I remember being a kid. I remember the joy of an afternoon when you had a field in front of you. It didn’t matter the sport. The grass beneath you. Your friends among you. It was fun. Weightless. Free.
These kids, these 10- and 11-year-olds, are carrying weight among them that is heavier than I can begin to understand. Some have chips on their shoulders the size of boulders. Some speak language that would have had me grounded for life when I was their age. They don’t seem to be free on a field. They seem more like they are caged in life. They seem to be holding rage instead of laughter. They seem to have forgotten that they are supposed to be kids.
I don’t know why. But I do know that I wanted to be on the sideline to remind them.
I fear that we may be teaching them to be too hard at such young ages. We are teaching them to build up their armor instead of breaking it down. Maybe we are not allowing enough space for being soft instead of strong. Maybe there is too much technology and not enough face to face interaction. Maybe there is too much bullying. Maybe we are raising entitled kids. Maybe we are saying yes too much. Maybe we are teaching them that they are the best without having to put any work in to become better. Maybe we are allowing them to talk when they should listen. Maybe they need to learn early the value of the word no. Maybe we need to teach them when they’re younger that they need to be held accountable for their actions.
Maybe it is all of that, and maybe it is none of it.
But I do know this: the boys of the field today become the men of the headlines tomorrow. Their character matters.
We need to hold our boys to higher standards so that they become men that do the same. I would rather them win at life than to win a game, any day. But it starts on the field. And the classroom. And in the space between at their homes.
The time to shape them is NOW.
And it took almost the whole season, but those last few games they meshed as a team. They came together. They smiled. They were weightless. Happy. Free. Kids as kids should be.
Here’s to the boys.
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Katie Yackley Moore is a freelance writer, yoga instructor and a momma of four navigating life and a separation and finding herself in the process. She adores coffee shops, laughing until it hurts and impromptu dance parties. Her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Mamalode and HuffPost Parents. She has published a journal entitled “Dream a Bigger Dream” and the children’s books “You Are a Warrior” and “We are Family” and just finished her first novel. Catch up with her between tea breaks at The Naked Momma and on Facebook.