This fall I was the "coach" for Claire's "soccer team."
Since these kids are only four years old, things are pretty informal. The parents and kids show up Saturday morning and each coach picks three players. That's the team. You run a few drills, scrimmage with another team of three, then someone blows a whistle and the "game" is over.
The season started with a coaches training session, where the instructor gave it to us straight. "Your players will lack judgement about their own safety and abilities," he said. "They will not think logically. They will ask lots of questions. They may experience rapid and unpredictable mood changes. They won't share."
He then advised: "Don't talk to them about strategies like 'penetrating the defense' or 'delaying the attack.' They won't be into that."
He was correct on this point. In fact, he was correct on all points.
But I have to say, watching four-year-olds play soccer is highly entertaining. They all seem to be following the same playbook. And if I ever get my hands on that playbook, I'm certain these next 10 rules would feature prominently.
* THE FOUR-YEAR-OLD'S GUIDE TO SOCCER *
1. At some point the coach will gather everyone around, and start talking about "the game." Blah, blah, blah. This is your signal to share a story, an important bit of news, or just an interesting observation.
2. The game begins with a kick-off. Once the ball is kicked off, all players must stand as still as statues. DO NOT make a move for the ball. Just let it roll to a stop, then stare at it. You will hear your coach and parents yelling, "KICK IT! SOMEONE KICK IT!" Ignore them.
3. About four seconds into the game, announce that you need to go potty.
4. Once the game is underway, players should travel around one tightly packed bunch. Do not fan out.
5. Do not look up, and do not stop the game. If the ball rolls into an adjacent soccer game, keep playing. If it rolls into a picnic area, keep playing. If it rolls into the parking lot, keep playing.
6. If you are tired, lie down on the field. The game will continue around you.
7. If you see any of the following: butterfly, mushroom, ladybug, dandelion or similar miracle of nature, IMMEDIATELY STOP PLAYING! Thoroughly investigate the thing you found. Gather others around and share your discovery.
8. If you happen to run near your parents, stop and wave enthusiastically. Ask them if they are watching you. Ask them for a snack. Show them how you can do a somersault.
9. In general, do not touch the ball. However, it IS okay to touch the ball if:
a. It's not rolling the direction you want.
b. If you are close enough to throw the ball in a goal.
c. You find the "no touch" rule irritating.10. Eventually you might feel like scoring a goal. Simply find the closest net and figure out a way to get the ball in there.