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Plan A for dinner tomorrow night, hope the wind holds off.

A guest post written by one of my favorite writers, my mom Debbie Rohl.

The night before Thanksgiving James and Kate are creating a beautiful space in their patio for our Thanksgiving feast. James calls it “Plan A” on instagram and whets the appetite for the dinner to come.

Outside there is a storm, there is wind, rain, turbulance. Inside the walls created by canvas tarps and space heaters there is peace and purposeful preparation. A table, made by Kate that seats 14, boxes (also created by Kate) run down the middle holding purple flowers and greenery freshly cut with candles that set the mood.

Places are planned with heirloom dishes, precious and loved, Grandma’s wedding china coming out, joined by silver wrapped in string and flowers. Every setting is intentional, every setting anticipates someone, someone invited, someone loved.

It’s Thanksgiving, the storm has picked up speed, curtains are blowing, rain is dripping, children are testing and dinner is simmering. The aroma begins to beckon us, calling us to the heart of it, the kitchen. It’s a day of sharing, cutting, mixing, remembering. Remembering past holidays and dreaming of the new, the new kitchen, the new year, the next adventure.

Finally we are ready to take our place at this table, this table so beautifully prepared, this table where we find our seat, this table that we look across and see a face we love and know. This table set with love in the midst of a storm, a storm on the outside but peace on the inside.

We take turns speaking of why we are thankful, we take turns speaking of love, we take turns saying why we love each other, what we see in each other and we take our place at this table of love. We have chosen this place, we have chosen these who are here, whether by blood, by gift or by invitation into the story of us.

There is a storm outside, but here, at this table we have chosen love, we have chosen peace we have chosen each other, quietly, intentionally and purposely. Plan A doesn’t always work, unless Plan A is to love.

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Do I throw my clothes in the fire? Do I throw my hopes in the fire?

Do those things grow in the fire
Or burn just to keep me complying?
Can you still show me the way? Can you still show me a light?
‘Cause I was only a kid when I fell and you tossed me aside, hey

This has been a tough week for my oldest. He quit his super competitive soccer team, a team he loves and a game that brings him so much joy. He wanted to quit before but Kate and I talked him out of it. We told him to see it through, change the narrative, fight through the issues, and find a way. I’m not so sure we gave him good advice. We are trying to teach our kids not to quit when things are tough, or to give up on a commitment that they have made. So when he came to us to say that he felt picked on at practice and that he wasn’t having fun playing soccer because he felt like he was just trying not to make a mistake instead of being the creative player he’s always been I talked to him about Junior High being tough and kids trying to find their way. I told him that he should let the kids know he felt picked on and give them a chance to tell him that they didn’t mean it and that they were sorry. I told him to be positive influence and to stand up for other kids. Then when he told me that they mocked him for being positive and that teammates that he has been friends with for years were joining in and isolating him I told him to stick it out. I told him the quality of play was so high, the training so dynamic, the coaching that much better. I listened but I didn’t hear, I didn’t see that fire starting to go out.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, my son and the Gang of Youth’s song quoted above. He wants to play soccer in high school, maybe college, maybe even higher. But none of that happens if the fire goes out, if he quits. As a coach I know that this is the age when kids stop playing sports because it’s no longer fun. Maybe that is pressure from parents, maybe it is bad coaching and a win at all cost mentality, maybe it is a team culture that doesn’t nip teasing in the bud. But this is the time when all the other things kids could be doing become more of a draw. Soccer may not always be the fire that light my sons soul and I am ok with that. But I am not OK with that fire getting extinguished because the game no longer transcends all the other noise.

What can I do if the fire goes out?
‘Cause I don’t know if I can live without

I wanna taste and see if the Lord is good
I wanna know if I’m heard and if I’m understood
See the savage desire is some stupid thing
Or if having desire is summoned deep within

After one more practice of my boy coming home broken, telling me that on his latest trip he sat alone at dinner in San Diego and he was locked out of his room he shared with team mates. One more time sharing all the ways he feels picked on, isolated, and left out I told him it’s OK to quit the team. It’s more than OK to say I am worth more than this, my soul is worth more than this feeling of being left out. There are many paths to soccer at a high level but none of those paths start with quitting the game. My son has no intention of quitting the game, he still loves it. But he can’t keep playing in an environment where his joy in playing is sapped, no matter how good the opportunity is. He will take the winter off, play some basketball, pick up soccer games with friends, and in the Spring find another team.

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I have completed another season of coaching soccer, my first real one being in charge of an age group, and there are some things I want to make sure I note for the next ones. At the end of the Spring season earlier this year I formally took over the Boys born in 2008 age group for my club. There were two teams within that age group of 9 and 10 year olds and a total of 23 kids. I was so nervous and excited to take charge that I think I didn’t do enough asking questions of and listening to other coaches and instead tried to get started on my grand plans for developing soccer players. Now that the Summer tournaments and Fall season are done I think that is the first lesson I hope to learn from this experience. I was so excited to put some of my theories and thoughts into action that I didn’t spend enough time hearing what my co-coaches thoughts were, or even what the previous Age Group Coordinators thoughts were. I assumed that I either knew them all ready or that I knew better. I would never say that or want anyone to think that of me but I think that was a deep down driving force somewhere in my gut.

The summer started with a few practices, seven new players, and tournaments that we had no idea where to place our teams in terms of competitive level. I had a Plan for the fall, 10 weeks of practices laid out with a clear plan for development, but I wasn’t prepared for the quick on-boarding of new players into teams that needed to be ready for multiple game weekends of the summer tournaments. These are things I already know I will better account for next time but it lead to some frustrated players, parents, and coaches as I fumbled through that season. When Fall practices started we had a little bit of summer data to know what we had and where to place our teams for the league and we did a great job of finding the right competitive level for both teams. Neither team lost or won the majority of their games but were right around .500 and in the mix at every game. That was a great lesson from Summer immediately put into practice in the Fall.

It was at practices in the Fall where I once again ran into an issue of not communicating with my co-coaches and instead tried to Lone Ranger some of the training sessions. When the busyness of life put me behind on practice plan development I would show up at practice with an idea for the session but not communicate that with my colleagues leading them to feel left out, unvalued, and confused. While I know that I need to make sure I am prepared, more than that I need to make sure I am communicating and sharing the load. A short conversation and another coach could have a great idea for the session and be ready to run the whole thing. I need to get better at holding a big picture view of development while allowing some improvisation on the details. There is more than one way to teach proper spacing in the attacking third!

So as Winter comes and I take a break from soccer for a few months I want to make sure that I learn from this past season. I need to Communicate better with my coaches, be ready to get started with new players right from the start, and share the work as well as the thought process. By listening more, asking better questions, and really engaging with the players, parents, coaches, and club representatives I think I can have an even better Spring Season.

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