Youth soccer not without dad’s sacrifice

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2000

The youth soccer season is winding down. It’s a great program, and I’m sure a lot of players had fun and a lot of parents had fun watching their children compete.

But I also hear a collective sigh of relief from the hundreds of parents who will no longer spend Sunday afternoons sitting in the Mississippi heat under umbrellas that do a spectacular job of providing absolutely no cover from the sun.

The sigh comes from moms who rushed to finish dinner in time to bring their children to practice and then had to eat that dinner cold when practice was finally over. The sigh comes from dads who left work early to watch sons and daughters run from the ball and sit on the field crying when an errant foot connects with his or her shin.

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I know this sigh because I remember it. Suffice it to say my parents were glad when my soccer career came to an end when I was 7.

It may surprise many of you to know my svelte 250-pound frame is not particularly adapted to the sport of soccer. I was actually less built for the sport as a child.

But when all my friends decided to play soccer, what choice did I have? When they all showed up at 39th Street Park with parental permission slip, I was right there with them, slip in chubby hand.

Several slow, chubby and uncoordinated children apparently joined me. There were too many children for one team, so the coaches culled us from the athletes and simply told our parents that we would have to form another team, and our parents would have to come up with some coaches.

We, of course, were not told any of this. All we were told was there would be two teams instead of one. If we could find a coach.

My dad had never kicked a soccer ball in his life. He had never seen a soccer game. To this day, he has shown absolutely no interest in the sport – except when he volunteered to coach the Chargers.

He went the library and checked out a book about soccer and then went to TG&Y to buy a ball. This was his first introduction to the sport.

I think part of the reason he did it was to encourage his whiney, brainy son to do something other than watch TV and read. At the age of 7, the idea of my eventually becoming a collegiate athlete was a very remote possibility.

My dad was always an athletic guy, and I know he feared getting kicked off the soccer team would turn me off of sports altogether. I was a pretty wimpy kid, and maybe he was right.

But I also know the real reason he coached that team. The 30-odd coaches of the Natchez Youth Soccer League already know the answer.

A few of the Natchez coaches are genuine soccer fans. They want to see the sport take off in the South, and coaches such as these are the main reason soccer is growing popularity.

But I know there are some Natchez soccer coaches who have less interest in soccer than did my father. I also know plenty of those coaches have a son or daughter on the team.

They do it for their children, and the children in general who need an adult to sacrifice the time and effort to serve as a coach in a youth league.

These coaches receive few, if any, accolades. Most of the time their own players don’t realize the sacrifices their parents and coaches make for them to play a sport. I don’t think I fully realized who much my parents did for me until I graduated college and had to start doing it for myself.

So thanks, Dad. And thanks to the coaches who made this season possible for hundreds of budding athletes. One day they’ll appreciate it.

Nick Adams is sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at (601) 445-3632 or by e-mail at