Friday, July 06, 2007

Teaching the kiddies

I can’t give you an accurate assessment of the US-Paraguay match. Believe me; it wasn’t for lack of effort on my part to find a locale with Gol!TV. In fact, I was mere yards away from a high-def TV broadcasting the entire match live from Venezuela. Yet, I have nothing for you, other than the view that sparse five-minute viewing blocks I was afforded between breaks of a much larger task that occupied my time; namely teaching my little cousins how to play soccer.

Of course, I can’t say I wasn’t tempted to just drop a few T90s and say “be gone, little ones, and play amongst yourselves.” But, my heart tugged at the wonderful opportunity to present to them the beautiful game. And for all that the game has given me, I felt indebted to impart the knowledge I have been afforded to my little cousins.

Here’s what I can say, based on said viewing blocks and the morning-after reports: while Justin Mapp was misfiring, and Jonathan Bornstein was lobbing gifts to the Paraguayans, my little cousin Heather was practicing her new skill of passing with the side of her foot. My other cousin, Sergio, was working on his juggling. While the TV tugged at the writer in me to provided sound critique of the Copa America match, my heart and soul were taken by two of my dearest whose genuine interest in the game was absolutely touching.

On a hemmed in front yard which provided little space to maneuver, we worked on passing techniques, touch, dribbling and juggling. The concept of kicking using the instep was completely foreign to both, but something they took to rather quickly. The skills we worked on were obviously very basic, but the sense of enjoyment between all of us was more than enough to tranquilize the antsiness of my journalistic alter-ego.

After my legs and lungs had retired following a good 50-minute training session, Sergio continued with his juggling practice until the crickets were in full attendance. Days later, on the Fourth, I offered Heather a brand new adidas ball in her favorite color – pink. No sooner did I hand the pastel orb to her before the box and bag it came had already settled in the trash, as the ball skimmed back and forth on the grass of the front yard. Once again, I found myself leading another spontaneous training session, despite the intermittent showers that only seemed to encourage the next Kristine Lilly to keep working on her newly-developed spin move.

Sometimes, I feel we, as soccer fans, get too wrapped up in this game to realize that it’s just that – a game. The beautiful game, at that. So while it is tempting to keep track of every little, nondescript detail and transaction of your favorite club, don’t forget that this is a game that should also be shared with others. Forget the naysayers and critics of our sport. If we hand our little ones a soccer ball, and leave them to their new device with some basic instruction – no overemphasis on coaching or winning - soon, the beauty of this game will finally be painted across our country.

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