Monday, February 27, 2012


 Finding Your Passion

Jeff is a typical male--he loves sports.  He likes watching it above all else on TV, especially our beloved Tar Heels, and especially while eating snacks and drinking beer. He loves to love UNC and hate Duke and Coach K, the weasel.
He tailgates at every USC home football game with his law school buddies. Because he played soccer as a child and teen, he also follows college and pro soccer and watches it relentlessly on TV while all those around him are bored to death and clueless about what is happening. He tivo-es every soccer, basketball and football game of his favorite teams and will not let anyone tell him the outcome until he has had the opportunity to watch them himself.
 Much of what I have learned from Jeff though, has come from his love of soccer. He chose soccer as his sport right off.  When he was old enough to begin on Y teams, he and a lot of his friends signed up for soccer, which their fathers had never played and knew nothing about. It was a new sport in the South and had just begun to challenge football. So the boys took their first step toward independence, though short lived. Irmo area fathers bought up all the Soccer for Dummies 
 books and began to learn about offside and corner kicks and yellow cards and soon were coaching the teams their sons were on or yelling at the coaches of the teams their sons were on.   

Jeff played classic league soccer in middle school, which gave him the opportunity to play teams from other states. He traveled to Alexandria, Virginia and Bethesda, Maryland, staying in the homes of professors, playing against Ambassadors’ sons.  The opportunity gave him much broader experiences than playing school soccer would have, traveling with Irmo Middle School to Spartanburg and Greenwood.

pick up soccer
Though he ended his organized team soccer career at that point, Jeff has a life long love of the sport and has participated in it almost daily since. Any sport is better played in person than viewed from the couch. Though going to a game with friends is more social, it does nothing for your cardiovascular health and your waistline.  Every day at lunch Jeff changes into his soccer clothes, rushes out from the law firm and heads to the USC intramural fields to play pick-up soccer. That is a term, for those of us who don’t do pickup sports, which means you show up at a soccer or baseball field or a basketball court (or at least a goal) and whoever else shows up divides into teams and plays a game.   

Many of the players he meets at lunch he plays with in an adult league of indoor soccer.  Playing pickup at lunch and team league indoor soccer are miles apart, let me tell you. Indoor soccer is fast and loud and echo-y and sweaty, with balls bouncing off the walls where there is no out of bounds.  We go as often as we can because it is soooo much fun to watch. It takes us back to the days when we cheered Jeff on as a teenager, only not exactly. His bracket is age over 40,  so this is a bunch of middle aged men. At 42 he is one of the youngest players, but that doesn’t mean he is the best.  Many are in better shape, since he has a bad back and knee and shouldn’t be playing at all. There are some that look to be mid-fifties and sixties who are great players. A couple of my favorites grew up in Brazil or other countries where soccer is the national sport and they are several notches above the other players. 
 Several players are ferociously competitive—they scream at the referees and get yellow carded and get kicked out of games. Jeff is not one of those. He is pretty laid back, but nobody loves the game more than he does.

So I have watched my son learn to be independent; broaden his horizons and meet people very different from himself; find a passion, a way to have fun and relieve the daily pressure the comes with working with clients in pain and who are victims of an unresponsive system.

But there’s more.  In addition to playing, he is a coach—of Sam’s soccer team—-The Bobcats.  He has been the coach since Sam, who is almost 9, was 4. We go to every game we can and I watch Jeff as much as I watch Sam.    This is what I have learned.

He loves to watch soccer, to play soccer, but more than anything, he loves to coach soccer. On that soccer field he combines his two passions, soccer and fathering. He is a great coach. A natural mentor, he communicates his love for the game to his boys and girls. He instills in them respect for each other and for the other team—and expects all of us, even the fanatic parent fans, to show respect for the other kids, parents and even the referees--wellllll maybe not so much.  There are father coaches on the field who scream at their kids and the referees, who don’t rotate their players, who favor their own kids, who deny the girls equal opportunities on the mixed teams. Unless those players have a chance to play for another coach soon, their love for soccer will die.

These are the other things Jeff teaches his players:
Have fun.  This is a game. You are here to learn to love the game and learn how to play it.

Show up for practice. You can’t get better if you don’t learn and practice the basics. You don’t have to be at practice to practice. You can practice anywhere.

Each of you will rotate in two quarters and out two quarters.  Even if you are not the best, you will play as much as the rest.  Even if you know you are stronger than others, you will play no more than the rest. It is your job to learn to play with everybody and to help your teammates while you learn the game.

Winning is important, but not the most important thing. Even if we need one goal to win and everybody on the team thinks we should keep the most advanced players in, we will put in those who have not yet had their turn.

Each player will play each position on the field, even if you are better right now at some positions than others. You are here to learn and are too young to be locked into one position yet.

It is just as important to pass and help set up a teammate to score as it is to score yourself.

When a player makes a goal, he/she will be moved into a defense position to give one of the other team members a chance to score.

Stand your ground, but don't try to take the other team's players out.

No trash talk or gloating.  Don't respond to gloating, trash talk, or unnecessary roughness. If it gets too dangerous, report it to me as the coach and I will handle it with the other coach.
If we are way ahead, don't slack up--but toward the end of the game we will suggest that we let them play with more players or we will play without a goalie. We will hope they will do the same for us in similar circumstances.

If it is a very early morning game, do not make fun of the coach because he shows up with bed head.
The soccer parents have a lot of respect for Jeff and they tell me that their children love their coach. 

  Oh, and this season they went undefeated.


  1. What an awesome tribute to Jeff and to the game. First, to play during the workweek? At lunch? Impressive! But to coach for the love of the game with the amount of respect and self-control he demonstrates - wow. Not only does a coach like Jeff teach soccer, he teaches a healthy life style, and good character. I wish my boys could have had such a coach. It wouldn't really matter what their win/loss ratio was, but the fact that they were undefeated? The icing.

    I hope that he reads this. Isn't it wonderful to learn from your kids? Thanks.

    1. Great post Ms.Judy. I'm so glad Jeff didn't choose to play football, even though he has re-injured himself playing soccer at times. Soccer is not nearly as brutal as football. Football's all about forcibly knocking someone down with weapons aka under armour(armor?). Tom Turnipseed.

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