The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

September 20, 2013

LEVINE: Being a part of the team

By Scott Levine
Herald Associate Editor

---- — “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” — Vince Lombardi

Those words are what I’m going to live by when I step on the soccer field Saturday.

In my first coaching gig since early college, I’m leading a group of tenacious, hard-nosed, do-anything-to-win local athletes to the hallowed grounds of the Ericksen Community Center to see how much they want to savor the taste of victory.

We’ve scouted the other team’s best players and have a game plan ready for their up-tempo attack.

That plan came to fruition Tuesday when I initiated our first practice.

OK, so maybe they weren’t as bloodthirsty as a group of over-masculine high school football players, but they jumped for joy during our warm-up session involving jumping jacks.

So it won’t matter who wins and loses Saturday, since my group of 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds will likely get more excited about the after-game snack than the actual kicking of the soccer ball.

This is my life as a dad now. And it’s always something I believed I would do.

My grandfather was a coach, my dad officiated and my brothers and I were always involved in sports (my brother now coaches). Growing up, I thought I would be a coach.

That didn’t quite pan out, so now I’m here, coaching children’s soccer on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings.

And after our first practice, I feel good about our team. It’s not that I believe we’re going to steamroll the competition, because I doubt they even keep score. At this age, the process of just knowing what to do on the field is the biggest part of the game.

I was a little nervous going into the first practice because I know what 3-year-olds can be like — I live with one.

But my fears weren’t validated. We kicked, jumped, ran and some, including my daughter, picked grass.

I’m a big believer in organized and high-motion practices, so I brought my notecard (my grandpa, who utilized this technique often, would be proud) with a minute-by-minute breakdown of how practice would go.

It only took a few minutes of realizing that we weren’t going to make the schedule, but I didn’t employ Bob Knight-coaching tactics. It took an extra few minutes to explain why some people can’t use hands, while a goalie can. That’s confusing stuff for a youngster.

So, I went with the flow. And my biggest preparation of knowing that was the best idea, was being a parent of a toddler.

Nothing can prepare a person more for young children’s activities than having a toddler at home. I’ve learned I own more patience than I ever dreamt of, and I know that when a child is not paying attention, it’s usually more about how amazing that colorful leaf looks on that tree, rather than the dynamic speaking ability of the leader.

That all brings my team and me to Saturday. There won’t be an inspiring pre-game speech or constant calls for the officials to learn how to call the game (basically because the coaches are the officials).

Instead, Saturday’s game will be a time for controlled chaos with 16 kids all wanting to kick the ball at the same time.

Let the games begin.

Weekly picks

Like always, feel free to go toe-to-toe with me, and log on to www.clintonherald.com and click on the College Football Sweepstakes. If you do well, you will be in a drawing for a Dick’s Sporting Goods gift certificate.

Last week’s record: 19-5

Overall record: 61-14

This week’s picks

Colorado State at Alabama; SMU at Texas A&M; Auburn at LSU; North Texas at Georgia; Bethune-Cookman at Florida State; Michigan at Connecticut; Maine at Northwestern; Tennessee at Florida; Purdue at Wisconsin; Louisiana-Monroe at Baylor; North Carolina at Georgia Tech; West Virginia at Maryland; San Diego State at Minnesota; Tulane at Syracuse; Kent State at Penn State; Kansas State at Texas; VMI at Virginia; Marshall at Virginia Tech; Western Michigan at Iowa; Vanderbilt at Massachusetts; Wake Forest at Army; Michigan State at Notre Dame; Texas State at Texas Tech; Missouri at Indiana.