The Time I Stopped Soccer Practice

I'm a smart, well-traveled career woman with a master's degree and three published works on the market. Unfortunately, I'm also fairly awkward. Please enjoy this series chronicling some of the awkward things I've done and the lessons I've learned along the way.

These Awkward Things I've Done, Part 6: The Time I Stopped Soccer Practice

A few weeks ago, I had Friday night soccer duty with my two nephews. I drove them across town to the sprawl of fields surrounding the soccer club, lugged my beach chair and my book out to the sidelines, and settled in for a comfortable evening of swatting mosquitoes with the rest of the soccer moms. 

Truth be told, I did less reading than I planned, and a lot more laughing. If you've ever watched junior youth league soccer, then you know why.  

  • At one point, one of the little boys attempted what may have been a poorly-executed bicycle kick. He missed the ball entirely, hollering, "SON of a NUT!" Meanwhile, behind him, my nephew turned a crooked line of cartwheels.
  • A boy on the next field yelled, "COACH! WHEN ARE WE GONNA PLAY SHARPS AND MINNOWS?" approximately 80,000 times on a continual loop.
  • A bird pooped while flying over the field. It was Very Exciting. "I SAW THE POOP COME OUT! IT LOOKED LIKE A BUNCH OF LITTLE STRINGS! IT ALMOST LANDED ON YOUR HEAD, CARLOS!!!!"
And so forth. 

After an hour and a half, we switched fields for my other nephew's practice. Since both boys practiced with both teams (bless their coaches' hearts!), I let them run on ahead together to the next field while I gathered up my chair, keys, phone, and book before working my leisurely way over.

When I arrived at the second practice field, however, I couldn't see my younger nephew! Meanwhile, instead of practicing with a team, my older nephew seemed to have fallen in with a group of rag tag boys. They stood in a messy cluster, kicking a soccer ball around haphazardly. 

I caught my older nephew's eye and motioned for him to leave the cluster and come over to me so that I could ask if he knew where my younger nephew had gone. Instead of immediately obeying, however, he only shot me an uncomfortable look and continued kicking the ball with his friends.

I called his name.

He waved and shook his head.

This was not to be had. 

I dropped my chair and book and stomped toward the middle of the cluster. One of the older boys, seemingly ignoring my presence, kicked the ball toward my nephew. I hadn't spent more than a dozen years working with middle and high school kids for nothing. I knew just what to do. I reached out a foot and stopped the ball, trapping it under the sole of my foot. 

I pinned my nephew to the turf with my eyes.

"Where is your brother?" 

"He's in the bathroom," he answered, swiping his forearms across his face to clear the sweat.

"And why didn't you answer me when I called you?" I demanded.

He blinked at me. "Because we're practicing." He gestured toward the older boy, who was staring at me as if I had horns spouting out of my forehead. I came to the slow realization that he wasn't just a little bit older than the other boys. He was a lot older. 

It then dawned on me that he might be their coach. And that they might be practicing. And that I had stomped into the middle of their little scrimmage and derailed everything. 

"Ohhhh," I said slowly, lifting my foot off the ball and giving it a tap to send it rolling. "Well, okay. Good. Fine. Alrighty, then." 

Continuing to blather, I backed slowly off the field, hoping that with any luck there might be an open manhole directly behind me. 

There are two problems working in tandem here. The first is that I obviously have no sense of judging people's ages, and the second is that I really do need to pay closer attention to what's going on around me. 

Perhaps if I can grow in those two areas, I will be saved future humiliation and will make life a little less chaotic for those forced to interact with me. 


  1. We've switched to an indoor soccer league so you'd think some of the distractions (grass, cleats, pooping birds, etc) would be minimized. Not so- there are still cartwheels, weird parents and the snack vendors.


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