It has literally been 20 years since I coached soccer. So when Koenraad Beugelink texted me about helping him coach our Knights boys team, it took me a minute (or two) before responding.
But given the fact that I have two boys on the team, and the fact that in of all the things I’ve done in my life, coaching soccer might just be the one thing I miss the most, I couldn’t turn it down.
Being in control…sort of
I remember it like it was yesterday…my first year of teaching. Contra Costa Christian School in Walnut Creek California, the fall of 1996. I was fresh out of university, and the Athletic Director asked me if I wanted to coach the boys’ varsity soccer team. I was a grade 6 teacher, the elementary PE teacher…and now the school’s new boys head soccer coach.
I was about green as one can imagine. There was nothing quite like it.
The first game on the schedule was the mighty Los Lomas — a local public high school that was a soccer powerhouse. At the time, my school Contra Costa Christian had approximately 100 students enrolled in its high school…Los Lomas had 100 students in one English class.
I’ll never forget the practice before that dreaded first game. I stood in front of them and pretended to be in complete control.
“First and foremost,” I said, “I am a Christian and our year and our team is going to reflect this.” And then I really don’t remember much after that (other than saying the usual “coach” type things to get a team to believe in themselves).
At that first practice, I discovered that no one on the team had played goalie before, so I officially anointed one of the tallest and largest guys on the team — Arie. I knew he was a great baseball player, so he must have good hands and instincts.
Great saves and a goal
It was a Friday night game. The lights were bright and our boys were incredibly excited. As it was the first game of the season, we had a ton of parents and students out…there was something in the air that night.
The game started and we were getting dominated. But Arie, playing in his first game ever as a goalie, kept our team in it with some great saves. All of a sudden, we had a counter-attack and one of our mid-fielders took a shot from long distance that went in!
We were actually winning…against Los Lomas!
And then, from out of nowhere, one of our forwards scored a beautiful goal. The whole team and crowd went wild, and we started to believe.
The rest of the game was mostly a blur. Los Lomas did manage to score one goal and Arie came up with some great saves…but we won the game!
It was a bit like a David and Goliath type game from a movie script— a bunch of misfits from a tiny school that nobody knew about, playing a soccer powerhouse, and defeating them by the tiniest of margins!
And now, I find myself back coaching again after all these years. I’m in a very different role as an assistant coach, playing a supporting role. But I sure do love the joy and satisfaction that comes from leading a group of youth towards a common goal and doing so in the context of a Christian community.
P.S. In their first “non-league” game of the season, our ACS Knights, who are expecting to be in a “re-building” type of year, defeated Unity Christian (a bit of a soccer powerhouse themselves) 3-2.