Monday, June 26, 2006

Coach

I ran into my high school soccer coach at a graduation party this weekend.

It was...well...not as awkward as I thought it was going to be. This was because Meg did most of the talking. I kind of just stood there, listened, smiled and occasionally interjected innocuous commentary.

When I was playing for him, Coach and I got along as well as a player and a coach could. He made me cry more than once, I disappointed him on occasion, but, overall, I was the backbone of his team and he knew it. I didn't miss practice. I organized the team to play in indoor soccer leagues during the off-season. I played with heart. I kept my grades up. I didn't love anything like I loved soccer. He rewarded me by naming me team captain in my junior season.

I only yelled at him once. It was a Monday after a Friday-night game. Meg had come down to the sidelines after our game to see me. Heather, jokingly, asked Meg to throw away a box or something. Meg, also jokingly, told her no. Coach blew up and yelled at Meg to listen to Heather.

I didn't care that Coach and Meg knew each other (he had coached her at soccer camp and she would sometimes practice with my team) to the point that maybe he felt like they were familiar enough that he could yell at her for absolutely nothing. He pissed me off.

Don't fuck with my sister, dude.

Which was essentially what I told him that one glorious time we really came to blows.

I was basically okay with Coach the entire time I played with him. He was a shitty soccer coach, to be honest, but he was a really good man. He cared about us like we were his children. I never doubted that he loved all of us. And, when I graduated, I saw myself keeping in touch - me stopping by his classroom when I was home from college to catch up and exchanging occasional emails during the school year.

It didn't happen.

Meg was a freshman the year after I graduated. Far and beyond the skill of the current goalie of the varsity squad (like, far and beyond to the point where MEG was coming to our practices to help train this other goalie), there wasn't a person in our little soccer community who didn't think that Meg would have that starting goalie position on the varsity team.

And then, when the other goalie didn't show up for tryouts (she was telling everyone that she going to play), Coach pulled Meg aside and told her that she had the starting position.

Until, all of a sudden, at the end of tryouts, this goalie decided that she wanted to play. And Coach just gave her the starting position. No questions asked.

Meg was devastated.

I was pissed.

I would go to games and I couldn't talk to Coach. I couldn't look him in the eyes. I couldn't be civil. He, again, had fucked with my sister. And I didn't like that.

Our relationship remained awkward and strained for Meg's four years in high school.

At Meg's senior year soccer banquet, while he was giving her an award, Coach started crying. He talked about how much he would miss Meg. How much she meant to his team.

And he said, during his speech, something about how Meg comes from an extraordinary family. A family of strong women.

He looked at me when he said that.

And I've felt guilty since that day.

Because Coach is who Coach is. A great guy and a shitty coach.

He shouldn't have fucked with my sister.

But I shouldn't have held my grudge.

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