Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Learning How to Take the Lead and Play Forward

Photo courtesy of Paul Turner
And then she asked me again. "Can I play goalie?"

I took a mental beat and said, "Listen, everybody plays every position on our team. I promise you'll play goalie, but not today. You'll play other positions today."

She wasn't done. "I can't play forward. I not very good at. Please don't make me play forward."

"You're going to play forward."

She gazed out over the soccer field. The game was to start in a few minutes. "I tried to play it last year and I was just too slow. Please don't make me play it."

I took another beat. "Again, everybody rotates on our team so we can learn all the positions. You'll only have to play forward for a few minutes and then I'll move you to defense."

"How long is a few minutes?"

"A few minutes."

"But how long is a few minutes exactly?"

"How about at least six minutes?"

"How about three?"

"No, at least six or seven minutes."

"Ugh. Okay."

"Thank you. Now let's play some soccer."

And so it went with one of my players. And she did a much better job than what she'd give herself credit for. She really did. As did all the girls on our team -- The Blue Flames. Yes, I'm coaching soccer again this year. U10 recreational soccer this time, my team made up of 12 eight and nine-year-old girls including my oldest, Beatrice. We played our first game, and while I'm not really supposed to keep score (again), I do, of course ('cause we won).

But my first priorities coaching are otherwise. I look forward to practicing soccer fundamentals and teamwork and having fun, fun, fun no matter what level their girls are at. That's why everyone will always get a chance to play every game and rotate positions throughout the season. A big plus is that we have really involved parents that feel the same way.

I have such fond memories of playing sports as a child and throughout junior high and high school with many a great coach in my past. Coaches who wanted me to learn new skills and to safe play and teamwork and leadership and to aspire to greatness, no matter my level of play. My own daughter has improved dramatically since last year and is no longer timid in the heat of the moment, kicking and dribbling the ball like it's nobody's business.

The fact that we're free to do this safely on a Saturday morning isn't lost on me, especially on a day later like today in America, the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And it's not just because of attacks themselves, which were horrific enough for us all then and now, but also the fact that imperfect but necessary democracies like our own are constantly under siege abroad and at home.

Why am I segueing to this dark day in our nation's history? Because I can't get the children out of my head. The children here in America and those around the world whose very lives have been irrevocably changed and those whose very lives are in constant jeopardy every day due to violence, terrorism, war and genocide.

Like the children of those lost on 9/11, where over 3,000 killed and 6,000 injured on that day. Like the children in Allepo, a city in Syria, the epicenter of the worst humanitarian crisis in recent history and a civil war that's killed hundreds of thousands of people over the past five years. Unfortunately this list goes on and on.

God bless them all -- those children lost to violence and those who lost their families to violence and those young and old who live with the memories of it all. Like many of you out there, I'm a hoper and a doer, I really believe we can and do make a positive difference in our children's lives and those around the world. This is again why I support Kidpower, the global nonprofit leader in personal safety and violence prevention education, and September is International Child Protection Month.

It still starts with us, in countries like ours, where we're relatively free to live our own lives and speak our own minds, to challenge the status quo when necessary and to compromise when we need to unify and show true leadership. Where we're able to talk about what happened and why, and where we can still rise above and make a difference for our friends and family, our neighbors down the street and across this great country. We can create the incremental improvements that truly are the catalysts of positive change and progress for our own children, and for others around this fragile world.

Because I want to be able to coach a recreational soccer team of eight and nine-year-old girls who play on Saturday mornings with family and friends cheering us on. Where the only comfort zone the players need to push themselves out of is learning how to take the lead and play forward, not fearing for their very lives.

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