Monday, October 29, 2012

Evil Avocados

This not a picture of a couple of boys.  Not the boys who cuddled in bed this chilly morning giggling about the cats, squirming in joy at just being a boy.

The one on the left there; that's not the boy standing in the basement, tears on his cheeks, searching for a lost bear and saying emphatically between sobs:  "I need that bear!'

The other one there?  Nope, that is not the boy who led me by the hand to the kitchen this morning and, basically, made the coffee, for me.  He struggled a little and I asked if he needed any help, "No, Dad, I got it."

This is not a picture of chubby faced babies in matching onesies; not a picture of boys in a sunflower patch; this not beautiful toddlers asleep; preschoolers in a play; kindergartners singing in a cafeteria.

No, here you have two young warriors.  Brave boys, confident.  Quiet winners, graceful losers.  Second place champs, first place heroes.

And, we must honor that.

Who helps boys become warriors?  Men, hopefully decent men, honest men, kind men, strong men, honorable men.  Men who remember being a boy and how difficult it can sometimes be, men who honor the boys they help, the boys they teach, the boys they feed, the boys they love, the boys they coach.

Jay (a made up name because I refuse to implicate others here) is such a man.  He coached the boys' soccer team and just about all you need to know is that he let the boys, encouraged the boys from what I heard, choose the team name "Evil Avocados."  How cool is that?

That's all you need to know about him but I'll tell you more.

Whenever he talked talked one-on-one with a boy he knelt down to their level.  A real man kneels to be understood.

He always looked in the boys eyes, he paid attention to them.  A real man listens to be heard.

He ran them hard at times; he let them compete, fall, push and play.  A real man sees play as an opportunity to teach.

He taught them to pass, to work as team, to encourage each other, to consider each other.  A real man uses character to lead.

He watched them carefully, laughed with them honestly, teased them appropriately, disciplined them  kindly, played their skills and overlooked their weaknesses.  A real man cherishes to nurture.

Jay led the  ten boys, now a team, to second place in their division.  They lost a game at the tournament, but he made it the best loss ever by awarding the boys their trophies after the game.

There is a picture of all the boys standing with their trophies.  Jay is behind them and the look on his face says it all. It is a look beyond pride, beyond joy, beyond exhilaration, beyond all the conventional emotions - his look is a look of honor.  His face says;  "I am one of these boys, I am honored to be among them."

Do I need to thank Jay?  I suppose so, but, how shallow that gesture seems.  What he gave of himself has left a permanent mark on my boys.  Not because Z is a better dribbler now or because N understands to turn out from the goal on defense not towards it; not because of the confidence N got because he was given an important assignment or that Z got starting in goal for the tournament game.  No.  All that's great and all, but...

They met a man who showed them what it's like to be a man.  Boys remember that, trust me.

I need to explain something else.  When I call these boys "young warriors" I refer to their need to learn how to equip themselves for the life they are going to live.  Once that was mostly hunting or fighting, but now it is more complicated.  I know now that poets and artists, teachers and actors, dancers and musicians, all men, are warriors.

I think a man must teach them how to be warriors.  I think men need to show boys now to be men. I think a man needs to pat a boy on his chest and say "this is where your heart is, this is where your soul dwells, this is what it is like to be a man."

Coach Jay was that man.

I know I should stop here, it's a good stopping point.  I am not going to.

I have posted here on ihopeiwinatoaster a lot more on sports than I ever dreamed I would.  I have even talked about my own coaching experience in Baseball Test.  However, I don't want you to think I am one of those sporty-sports-dad dads.  I'm not really.  However, sports are great metaphorically for communicating the journey on which we, the boys, me, Marci, all parents really, are on.  Someday I could switch to music metaphors or movie references, whatever, but for now, I find myself using sports.

Also, this is all in no way sexist.  I have deliberately left women out of this particular discussion not because I think they have nothing to teach boys or because I don't think they are important in the development of boys, they do and are.  Ask anyone I know, I like women.

But this one is between us men and the boys.

1 comment:

  1. This coach did such a good job. It is so too bad all of the coach volunteers cannot understand their role in the development of the children they coach. I wish I felt coach Jay was in the majority but there are way too many who feel it is an attack to their manhood to be kind and not care most about winning. Parents too to be fair to the coaches.