Ryan Traris: The football experience was a win

The first season was a success.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my experience coaching youth soccer, and the first time my son Anthony played an organized sport. At the time, we didn’t know much about the process or what to expect. We were going there simply looking forward to having a good time ourselves.

With the last two games coming up, I know I did, and I’m very confident that Anthony did too.

For the past month we’ve had weekly practice and games on Saturday. Together with other coaches, we have put together simple exercises that will help children work on the basics of football. We had them dribble through the cones before they stopped to take a shot.

They loved the Sharks and the Minnows – dribbling the ball across the field without letting the players in the middle, the Sharks, push it away from them. Each practice ended in a quarrel, where we divided the children and let them play.

One of the biggest challenges was knowing the names of our players and their personalities on the field.

We had all types on our team. There were veterans, kids who had clearly played a year or two earlier and had already mastered the basics – passing, dribbling, shooting.

Some of the boys played as if they had been shot from a cannon. They’ll get the ball and grow the field, not letting anything stand in their way. We had some crashes and minor injuries along the way.

The other players were all about defense. They’d stop the bus right in front of the goal – which doubles as a gym in the woods when the coaches aren’t looking – and stop any shots that hit them.

Of course, 6-year-olds don’t have stellar attention, so there were always a few of them looking at dandelions or trying to drive each other away.

I’m not sure why they win and lose. At the Kindergarten level, teams are split into two to play simultaneous games in order to get more kids to play time, and the focus is more on skill development and enjoyment than on winning percentage. The league didn’t even ask for results after matches.

Still, boys always seem to know. After matches, the split teams would share notes, replaying goals scored for teammates they hadn’t seen.

My biggest success has been watching Anthony grow as an athlete and as a kid. His confidence level rose from that first practice. Whereas before he was more timid where the ball came – and the crowd chasing it – towards him, he will now look for it.

He’s a better passerby than before, and he has the ability to dodge. Seeing him pass the ball on the court made me cheer, even when I was playing his game.

We’re not sure what’s next for our youth sports adventure. There’s baseball this summer, and then maybe football again in the fall or next spring. Anthony doesn’t seem interested in basketball, but that’s an option, too.

But no matter where our next step takes us, I’m happy to take that step with him.

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