On the line. Everybody on the line, I yell to my gathered throng of three- and four-year-olds.
Very few are listening.
One girl is picking clovers out of the grass. One of the boys is preoccupied scaling the goal. Two girls in the corner hold hands and twirl about, oblivious to the screaming parents, loud whistle and frustrated coach.
I should know. I’m the coach. One of the girls twirling away? That’s my daughter.
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Welcome to a typical practice at my U4 YMCA soccer team. We do a lot of running and talking, but sometimes, it seems, we do very little soccer.
I spend more time lecturing about not using hands, not tackling our teammates and not picking grass while the ball is in play than I do actually teaching the game of soccer. Not that I can contribute a whole lot anyway. You see, I really don’t know much about the game.
Why would someone who knows nothing about soccer coach it? Two words: my daughter.
As a youth pastor, I’m gone from home quite a lot. By the time you add up youth camp, mission trips, winter trips, overnighters and long-weekend events, I figure at least one month of my year is spent away from my family and hanging with teens. That doesn’t include nights at football games, dance recitals or school plays. It also doesn’t include late night phone calls or hospital visits.
To put it frankly, I know my daughter misses some quality time with her dad. So what can I do to ensure we spend some time together? I volunteer to coach her soccer team. To be honest, at the U4 level (which means under four years old), it’s really just organized chaos.
I do the organizing. They provide the chaos.
The kids get to run around the field. They get to dress in a uniform and make friends on the team. At the end of each game, everybody has a fun time and they get snacks and juice.
I get so much more. As a dad, I want to spend as much time with my daughter as I can. These are formative years in her development. What better way than serving as her coach?
It’s a natural fit. It requires just a few extra hours a week, and for that, I get to be on the field while my daughter goes for the goal. I get to high-five her and her friends for a job well done. I get to be present with her as she’s learning to be independent, make friends and become part of a team.
You can’t replace that.
So here’s my advice. If you can, volunteer to coach or help in your child’s sports team, band or dance troupe. You’ll get quality time with your child that won’t cost you much money and just a little extra time.
We spend so much time doing other things that a few extra hours on the field or riding the bus is going to be far more valuable than the fun stuff you could fill it with.
Wayne Yeager is a youth pastor, a husband, a dad, a student at Liberty Seminary (currently seeking an MA in Pastoral Counseling) and a sci-fi geek.