Soccer was always a huge part of my life. I started playing when I was 8-years old and I played on both the recreational and travel levels. Unfortunately, my sophomore year presented a scheduling conflict between soccer and theatre. So, at the end of my sophomore year, I made the decision to hang up my cleats and continue on with theatre.
In the almost 10 years on the field, however, I had quite the assortment of coaches. A coach who seemed like he couldn't be less thrilled to be in charge of a hoard of eight-year-olds, one who made us practice outside in the dead of winter and one who's pockets seemed to always be full of keys that would jingle all practice long.
But I've never had a coach quite as memorable as my dad.
Now, my dad has always been a big sports guy. He loves basketball, baseball, football and even golf, but he never really showed an interest in soccer, outside of watching me play. So when one of my old coaches was ejected from a game and it was either find a new coach in five minutes or forfeit, I was shocked to see Gary Hess volunteer. But he did, and from that moment on, my dad was my new coach. I had always wondered what it was like to have a parent as a coach. I had always imagined that it was a dream, you always had someone to practice with, you could help strategize for big games and you'd always be kind of a right-hand man on the field.
Boy was I wrong.
my dad was nothing if not a good coach. He had a good understanding of the game and he let us all try our hand at positions we were curious about but being his daughter presented some tricky situations. On more than one occasion, the short 15-minute ride from the soccer field back to our house after practice became a time for harsh critique and arguments that we often brought home to my mom... sorry mom.
That wasn't all though, I knew as an athlete that you were supposed to leave it all on the field. If your team won, soak it in and move on. If your team had a tough loss, be upset about it for a second and move on, but when your dad is your coach, it's a little harder to do.
After games I would get to hear all of his feedback, some good and some bad and even when his critiques weren't directed at me, they were directed at my teammates and friends and sometimes his harsh words and even his praise of other people was hard to hear. Of course, it didn't help that he stepped into the coaching job for a group of 14-year-olds who weren't always the easiest to deal with, me being probably the most difficult of all just because it's hard to separate your coach from your dad and your player from your daughter.
Despite our issues, we had a good time and as I got older and my dad got more comfortable with coaching and found his style, we were a much better team. We argued less, though every now and again we'd still but heads. I started to take direction more seriously and he started to understand how to communicate effectively with a group of young kids. We didn't ever have a superstar season but at the end of the day, we had a good time.
Good and bad, I wouldn't trade the years I spent playing soccer with my dad as the coach for anything. But if it came down to it again now I think I'd have to say thanks but no thanks. With that said though, he made me a better player and a better person so, thanks, dad.