We've been spending our Saturday mornings at a Pensacola soccer field watching a U15 Boys team playing in the Gulf Coast Soccer League. No, we don't really know any of the boys playing on the team...but we do know the coaches, and they need someone cheering them on too.
It's not our first experience watching headers and corner kicks although those days are quite a ways back. Our oldest son Brad was deeply involved in youth soccer, playing in city recreational leagues, select teams, high school squads and even at the college level. And when there wasn't an organized soccer game or practice on tap, Brad could be found in the front yard or street kicking a soccer ball around with his best friend and teammate Johnny.
These two were inseparable in middle and high school. Johnny just lived a block away...well, formally anyway. It almost seemed as though he lived at our house but that was perfectly fine with us. His quick laugh and sunny disposition made him fun to be around. We joked then and still do that he's like another son. Piling Johnny into the van with us for out-of-town tournaments was a given but on one of those trips Wayne had to accompany him to the emergency room when Johnny broke his leg during a game. Second parenting only goes so far; we knew the best thing was to get a temporary splint on Johnny's leg and get him back to Pensacola for his real mom and dad to make all the decisions.
So when Johnny (he's probably shortened that to John as an adult but he'll always be Johnny to us) was looking for a soccer coach, he recruited Brad. Johnny could help coach the team on which his significant other's son played but he was also coaching her daughter's team too; he needed someone to head up the boys team. It seems only right that after all those years sharing a soccer field, they should be back there together again. Had I known what the picture of them as youths looked like, I'd have had them switch sides when I took this one Saturday so they'd be in the same relative positions.
As a parent, it's rewarding to see Johnny and Brad mentor the boys playing on their team. They were both lucky enough to have a great coach as they came up through the levels of youth soccer, one who thought so much of the core group of boys that he moved along with them. Like Brad, he didn't have a child playing; he just wanted to share what he knew about soccer.
I can see his coaching philosophy being carried on by Brad and Johnny. Don't mistake Brad's seriousness in the above photo for anger; that's not his style. He's all about the positives of what you're doing right and how to get better at what you're doing wrong. Just like the coach he had growing up. We're enjoying seeing that in action and seeing the boys get better every week.
There are just two more games left in their season. I think Brad has enjoyed the experience and it's been good for him to be involved in something away from work a few hours every week. And it's been fun for us to be back on the sidelines again too. Once a fan maybe always a fan.