On the way to practice, Coach called my daughter.
“Are you headed to practice?”
“Is your mom driving you?”
“Will she be around in practice?”
Me on the speakerphone: “I can be. What do you need?”
Coach was in traffic and would be late. She would have my daughter and the team captain start dynamic warm-ups and a full-field game. I would hang around until Coach arrived, just in case.
I’m the travel team manager. This a role that I secretly love. Not that I need more things in the day, but to have a job with discrete roles the I can do like a boss is a point of great joy for me. My other roles are complex with difficult success metrics and involve a lot of thought. Being team manager is something I can do relatively easily and really well. That feeling of accomplishment and easy service is hard to beat. I am team manager and team photographer and coach supporter and logistics queen. I can provide information for the weekend’s games and COVID protocols of our opposing teams like nobody’s business. I can provide a game day roster with our guest players’ information without breaking a sweat. I can book a hotel room block at the right distance from our tournament. I have my team binder that I put together lovingly with sheet protectors, player cards, extra rosters, medical releases–and it rocks.
I can’t say that I’m so smooth with the girls and prefer a back seat role on the team. Don’t get me wrong. I cheer like a former competitive cheerleader – individually and for the whole team – but I’m not fist bumping each girl as they come off the field and not one of those parent managers that everyone chats up. I do my thing and let them do theirs.
So this day, I let the team captain start the team with dynamic stretches and hung back under the tree next to the field, surrounded by the foul-smelling cicadas.
I noticed that the club team who had the field before us were wrapping up and a group of men were standing by the side of the field with pop-up goals, looking as if they intended to take over the field. The field that we had for practice.
I started walking towards them as a family came on to the field with their soccer balls. I told the family that our team was about to practice on the field and they stepped off to find another place. The men, though, they hovered nearby and started to take steps onto the field. This was an imminent takeover.
This was the only soccer field in the park, although there was a grassy area beside it. This field, though, was flat and clearly marked off for soccer. I saw the girls start filing on to the field at the north end and the captain was starting to mark the goal boundaries for the north end. The men near me, a gaggle of 10 or so men in their 30s-50s, took some more steps onto the field.
I stepped in their direction. “We have the field from 6:30 – 8:00.” I said this with confidence and authority. We had been practicing at this field for months at this same date and time and I knew our club had a permit. They kept advancing. “Show us the permit or we’ll just split the field.”
They were bold and undeterred. The Other Coach from the prior practice (our same club), came to support me. “You guys will need to practice somewhere else. Our club has the field until 8.” The men, one by one, walked up to challenge The Other Coach and me.
“Show us your permit or we take the field.”
What was this? This was ridiculous! These grown men looked incensed. Did they not see the 16 yo girls on the field practicing?
The Other Coach kept fending them off and the men were irate. I got in the fray.
“We have a permit. We’ve been practicing for months here at this time and day. See our schedule.” I showed them our TeamSnap schedule which didn’t seem to sway any minds.
“I pay $20,000 in taxes to this county!” yelled one man who seemed moments away from a stroke, forehead veins bulging, “I own this field!”
The girls had spread across the field taking their positions, looking nervous and not starting play as we were taking space on the side of the field still.
I said calmly, “Can we all be adults, gentlemen, and be a good example to these girls? Let’s be adults here.”
“Yes!” shouted one of these men, approaching me. “I told them let’s not be like this. Let’s be gentleman. Just let us come on the field and show us your permit.”
The Other Coach was on the phone with the club administrator who was going to send a copy of the permit.
The men took turns shouting in my face, like ridiculous babies. I stood my ground. I was not at all afraid of them. I was defending our team and our girls and our space. Eventually Old Coach convinced them to start playing on the adjacent grassy area since the permit was coming, and he’d show them. Old Coach waited with me.
Our actual Coach then showed up and was like – what is happening here? She was trying to figure things out and as she was walking to the field, she saw one of the men yelling at me and wildly gesturing. We gave her the short story.
Old Coach got the email and showed it to a couple of the men, who eyed it suspiciously and finally accepted begrudgingly that we were allowed to be there. Note, they did not have a permit!
Seeing everything was tucked away and secure with practice going full steam, I thanked Old Coach and both us walked off the field. He would go home and I would start my run.
Later at home, I got a text from Coach.
“Thank you for being Security today…I as thinking on my way home that I never asked you if you were okay after that guy was yelling at you. I apologize for that. I hope you’re okay and I’m going to get you a SECURITY shirt!”
I wrote back: “I’m so glad I could be there. That’s so nice of you to think about that. I am totally fine and found it ridiculous that these grown men were acting like babies. I hope the girls saw the importance of standing your ground in the face of rude bullies. I also had nice workout afterwards. :)”
And that, folks, was practice.