My dad bought a book on soccer after he agreed to coach my third grade team. It was my second season playing the game and the first of a few seasons he’d coach me in soccer and baseball. My dad being my coach is still probably the best memory I have of youth sports.
The other kids really liked him. Dad was fair to everyone and he told off color jokes. They thought it was funny that he had empty beer cans on the floor boards of his Mercury. One day, two or three of my teammates and I were in the car when another coach came up to the window and gave us a speech about the importance of our upcoming baseball game.
As he walked away my dad turned toward the back seat and grinned.
“Just between us,” he said. “That guy’s fulla crap.”
Dad worked as a mechanic, and he wore his grease-stained uniform to practice. He smoked unfiltered Lucky Strikes and ran up and down the soccer field with a Lucky dangling from his mouth and the blue shirt with the “Dave” patch unbuttoned halfway down.
I didn’t realize how much having my dad a coach meant to me at the time, but I became aware of it before I had kids of my own. I wondered if I’d be able to do it and had my doubts.
Opportunity knocked though when my oldest son Jake was five, and his soccer coach asked me to help out. I’ve been coaching ever since and in addition to little kids soccer I’ve coached a ton of baseball, NFL flag football and this year, for the first time, basketball.
I’d never coached hoops before when someone from the league emailed last fall to ask me to coach my son Brett’s team. I set about trying to learn to be a basketball coach, and now, many YouTube videos later, we’re wrapping up the season. We haven’t won as many games as I’d have like to, but I’m pretty sure the kids have had a good time and that all will play the game again.
That’s what would have mattered most to my dad, and he’s always with me when I coach; mechanic’s uniform on and the only person in the gym smoking a cigarette. Sometimes he still even makes a crude but funny remark, and I chuckle to myself, happy to be right where I am.