Friday, January 4, 2013

Turn and face the ch changes
"And these children that you spit on as they try to change their world,
     Are immune to your consultation, they're quite aware of what they're going through..."
     -  David Bowie -

I've worked closely with my son on soccer from when I first started kicking a ball around with him at 18 months old to now, as he is about to turn 13, and is playing Spring and Fall for a competitive select soccer club, is travelling to North Carolina this weekend with his 35 teammates who made it onto the State of Georgia Olympic Development Program (going to play state teams from North Carolina, Virginia, and other states), and will be trying out for Pius High School's middle school soccer team a couple weeks from now.  Quite a load on top of his Dad putting him through workouts 4 days a week.

You see, we decided to take the winter indoor soccer season off- really my idea to take a break from the game and do strength and conditioning work with him one on one- his technical skills are very good but the game is getting faster and more physical at his age and he is a smaller stature guy so I saw an opportunity to help- particularly with his confidence to be able to stand his ground when challenged.  

We have always had a feisty relationship around sports or games- we are both competitive and a bit stubborn.  And truthfully, his being adopted puts an added wrinkle in our relationship as father and adopted son.  I must explain- I don't agree with those who say parents shouldn't push their kids.  There is nothing wrong with pushing- the real problem is between destructive versus constructive pushing.

Back to the topic for this blog- I am amazed at how my son has taken to the training, and he's seeing results that then reinforce his interest- higher vertical jumps, more pull-ups  etc. and the tone of his arm muscles (which he has now taken to inspecting in the mirror like a true teenager!).  But when we're training, he will often not be a pleasant guy to be around, and vents his frustration at me when the pain of the workout increases.  That was the parenting challenge that was placed before me- should I and can I focus on the bigger goal and let him grump and behave in ways that he knows will annoy me?

I forget how much he's already handling in his life, and not just on the athletic field.  How he in his own way lets off steam when he is nervous or trying to get psyched up for training or a match.  He deals with things in his own way- not mine, and talks or doesn't talk about things in a different way than I would, and sometimes it feels rude or inconsiderate or I feel shut out but it's how he needs to overcome whatever is stressing him.  I used to say more of "you gotta do it this way, any other way is crap" about a lot of things.  Honestly, that's how it was for me growing up- there was almost always a right way and a wrong way to do EVERYTHING!  

But I've learned to back off, particularly letting him vent or act out on his independence and focus on the important thing, the real goal- in this case that he's still doing the training.  So, I'm turning to face the strange ch ch changes of being Dad to a teenage boy and trying to stay relevant to him in a world where many things compete for his attention.  There is so much I learned in the middle school years both in school and in sports and I want so bad to help him do the right things and avoid the mistakes.  But there is an art to getting the message across in a way that he takes it in and makes it his own.

I'm learning to tune out the "noise" and just really look at the progress toward the core goal I'm trying to reach with him, and relax on the self-expression he shows along the journey.  Other parents have told me to dread the middle school years, but right now, I'm excited because I think it's just a matter of evolving the way I relate to my kids, it's different and not the Sugar Mountain of the young years, but in a way also more real and I like that.  I know that a teenager's goal in self-expression always contains a bit of something to annoy or create distance with their parents, it's always been that way.  But it's also a test for us- can we ignore the noise, and stay relevant and respected by them so that we can help them with setting  goals and doing what's necessary to reach those goals?

So this blog entry is not really my usual topic of youth soccer, but about the importance of having a connection with my son as he enters the teen years.  Sports are such a good way for a father to stay connected with his son as he starts to get all kinds of other interests like music, clothes, and girls.  Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes- funny that David Bowie song was actually the graduation theme song we selected my senior year in high school.  Things come full circle, don't they?!

Happy New Year, to all the Soccer Dads and Soccer Moms out there.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On Stopping the Spread of Dandelions...and Cleats

You know when you're out in the yard and you glance over at your neighbor's plot?  Then you see it - a bunch of dandelions, soon to go to seed, and infiltrate your oasis.  Herbicide, weed wacker, many choices to deal with the threat.  You know you are going into battle...

With a mind that makes some odd, random connections between situations, I had a similar thought after my son's soccer game last weekend.  You see, first, a few weeks back, there was one player sporting a pair of those, admittedly cool, Nike Mercurial cleats.  Then, last week, I saw a couple more...or more importantly MY SON saw a couple more.  You see my son is a bit like my lawn - my lawn accepts dandelion seeds from others, my son begs for cool cleats he sees on others.

If you are a parent of a kid who plays sports, you know that there are two sides to the story.  You want them to engage, to have passion for the sport, to watch their heroes on TV and emulate them on the pitch.  But the other side of it is they want to look like their heroes, and that costs a lot of dough.

I'm currently facing a constant barrage of requests from my little, 11-year old Ronaldo-idolizer for a pair of Nike Mercurials.  I decided, OK, can't stop the spread of Dandelions, but at least maybe I can manage the siege.  I came up with a plan:

I recently read a book by Claudio Reyna (it's available on my Amazon link on the right side of my blog) and he talked about how his dad had insisted from an early age that he be responsible for every piece of his equipment and kit if he wanted to play soccer.  He had to clean his cleats, shin guards and ball, make sure his practice and game uniform was clean and ready to go.  I liked that, and realized we had for too long looked over our son and taken care of a lot of these things for him to the point where he didn't have his shin guards in his bag when we showed up for one recent game.

So I implemented a plan starting last weekend.  I told my son that since his Adoption Day (we celebrate the day when his papers were finalized) was coming up in June, and he had a few weeks left in the Spring season  prior to starting his summer league after Adoption Day, he could show me the responsibility that would earn him a pair of Nike Mercurials.

I told him that he would have sole responsibility for getting everything together before practice, and for sorting his dirty laundry, disinfecting his shin guards (man, those things stink after practice!), and wiping down his boots and practice ball and getting it all back and ready for the next outing.  So far, so good, he's batting 1000 on these new duties - proving if a kid wants something bad enough he'll work for it.  There's no longer a yard sale of his stuff across the floor of the garage after each practice and game.  And me and his mom don't have to smell his shin guards anymore, win-win!

And I've got extra time now to kill weeds, sweet.

Monday, April 25, 2011

MLS campaign: your most memorable goal? Charlie Davies' own story

I enjoy this favorite Goal MLS contest- you get to tell the story of a memorable goal (it can be your own, your child's, or a hero's goal).  If your story is good, they will feature it on their web site, and might also feature it on the big screen at an MLS match.

I found out about the campaign through an e-mail that  D.C. United's Charlie Davies sent out to the MLS community.  His story is pretty cool, obviously, because you can imagine his first goal for D.C. United after coming back from his car-crash injuries must have been pretty emotional.  Here is 


 A few weeks ago I scored the two most memorable goals of my career.

Maybe they weren't the prettiest goals, maybe they weren't World Cup clinchers, but they were still huge for me. They were my first goals since coming back from an accident that had many questioning if I'd ever play again.
After sustaining major injuries, I basically had to teach my body how to walk again, and how to function.

But with each passing week, I felt my body growing stronger -- from the hospital bed to the wheelchair to the crutches, from walking to jogging to sprinting -- I kept the faith and pushed myself to the limit.

Finally, after a year and a half, I stepped on the field with D.C. United and felt that feeling that I had been longing for. It was something I'll never forget -- I had made it back.

The first goal of my comeback was on a penalty kick. After the ref blew the whistle, I looked at our captain Dax McCarty for the nod. He handed me the ball and said four words I'll never forget: "We believe in you."

The final whistle blew and I had scored two goals. I looked over at our fans and felt incredible support. I realized how far I'd come and was overwhelmed with emotion. I couldn't have imagined a better return.

Charlie Davies

I'll share my favorite goal in a future post...of course in the spirit of this being a parent's soccer blog, I already have a particular goal in that my son scored.