Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blogging is Easy!

A few of you have asked me how I have kept writing a blog all this time, and I always say blogging is easy! Mostly I say this because I want you to guest-blog for me, so I can have a week off and sit around eating chocolates. But it is true. Here are my tips for blogging, with apologies to Steve Martin, from whom I stole the idea.

You have to start somewhere, so I suggest starting with a person. People like reading about people, especially if it is gossip about a person they know. So how about this:

You know, there was this guy.

The’ you know’ part is just folksy fluff, but it hints to the reader that they might actually know the guy, even if they don’t. They might think that perhaps they can learn something secret about someone. But it isn’t quite enough. We need to use an adjective. Writers use adjectives all the time. So, let’s insert one here. A fancy one.

You know, there was this fancy guy.

Now, you might be getting bored already. I get it. Even if a guy is fancy, most readers have an absurdly short attention span, so now it might be time to insert a picture. Real writers would describe how the guy was fancy, but not bloggers. We don’t have the skills. Instead, go to Google images and find a picture of a fancy guy. Because it is a soccer blog, let’s make it a picture of a fancy soccer guy. Probably it will give you a picture of Cristiano Ronaldo or David Beckham, which is fine, since they are indeed fancy, and you can sit back and enjoy the picture along with your readers. An example:

Now it is probably time for some lunch.

Okay, after lunch, it is time to really get working on this blog thing. We already have a person, and an adjective and an image of our fancy guy. Let’s have him take some action, so we can also use a verb:

You know, there was this fancy guy who scored a goal on Saturday.

See what we did there? Our fancy guy isn’t just sitting around. He is doing stuff. And you know what people doing stuff does to bloggers-- it pisses them off. Why? Because bloggers usually never do anything themselves. They just complain about stuff that other people do. But don’t worry, it’s all good, because we can use this. Here’s our opportunity to complain:

You know, there was this fancy guy who scored a goal on Saturday. Can you believe it? What a jerk.

Why is he a jerk? Who cares? It is only important that bloggers have opinions, not reasons to back them up. Now since the blog should probably be a little longer, we can then write a few more sentences. Perhaps some vague complaining stuff, some rhetorical questions, and finally, for emphasis: when we really want to make a point, we can create a paragraph out of a sentence that probably shouldn’t have its own paragraph.

Like this.

See how important that makes it seem, when it is all on its own? Italics help too. Although don’t overuse them, like me, because then when you emphasize everything, you really don’t end up emphasizing anything at all.

Okay, I think we’re ready to add a video now. Videos from youtube are a bloggers best friend because they do all the work. Good god, why read something when you can watch it, right? I’m fairly certain there’s video somewhere of our fancy guy, the jerk, scoring that goal. Post it and you’re done.

See, blogging is easy! Besides, no one is reading it anyway.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Coaching is Hard

Coach Sandra has this thing she does where she puts her finger on her nose, and all the kids know to gather round, look at her, and listen. It is the end of practice and she does just that. It works like a charm.

“Did we have FUN today?” she asks loudly, leaning in.

“Yeah!” they all respond.

“What?” she says, hand behind her ear. “I can’t hear you…”

“YEAH!!!” they all scream excitedly. I am there and even I scream, just like an 8 year old. I did have fun. How does she do it? Is it her voice? This is the mysterious power of Coach Sandra.

I do not have that power. When I am in charge of the practice, it is less fun, and it goes more like this:

Me: “Okay, Scotia, grab a ball and dribble it over to the centre circle and back.”

Scotia, unmoving: “Where is Coach Sandra?”


Me: “Monica, c’mere, let me put some tape on your earrings.” (They aren’t supposed to wear earrings.)

Monica, wincing, looking around: “Can anyone else do it?”

And, of course, at the end of practice, I put my finger on my nose but I’m just standing there like an idiot. No one gathers around. “Hey!” I yell, but it sounds muffled, since I’m pressing down harder on my nose, as though that would help. “Gather round!” I finally bellow. I sound angry. They gather.

“Did we have FUN today?” I ask.

No one says anything. Finally from Sophie, my daughter, a mumble: “I guess.” Nice. This, from my own flesh and blood. Perhaps when we get home I will force her to count my stretch marks. “Fine. Go home.” I say to the team. And then, as an afterthought, as they are all walking away, “Hey, uh, good practice. See you Sunday.” Wow. Did I make even that sound mean?

The thing is, coaching is hard. Even Coach Sandra has a rough time of it sometimes. You have no idea how much time we spend during games, yelling things like “SARAH! YOU’RE FORWARD! FORWARD! NO! ON THE LEFT SIDE! UP HERE!” or, when they get the ball and start dribbling, “NO! THE OTHER WAY! THE OTHER WAY!” I’ve almost run into parents while pacing frantically down the side of the field. I think sometimes I even kick the air when I want the girls to kick the ball, just like I use my imaginary brakes on the passenger side of the car while Steve is driving.

It is also pretty tough to learn how you can spend half a practice coaching something really thoroughly, only to have them completely forget it a few days later. We taught them three basic things about throw-ins: put the ball behind your head, don’t lift your feet when you throw it, and throw it right away, before the other team is ready. We did this over and over and over. At practice, they had it down. Then during the game, I painfully watch Holly holding the ball forever on the sidelines, only to lift her foot when she finally does the throw-in. Sigh. And don’t misinterpret me -- I’m not complaining about other people’s kids- mine’s the worst for this. It’s like she thinks she gets a free pass and doesn’t have to listen or learn anything because Mom’s one of the coaches.

Once after a particularly rough week at practice I rented the Will Ferrell movie Kicking and Screaming, in which Ferrell is an ineffectual soccer coach. Just as I use parts of his holiday movie Elf as advice to guide me through Christmas (“…try to stick to the four food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup”), I was hoping for some delightful coaching insights. Nope. You know how his team wins, at the end? He tells his team to forget everything he taught them during the season. They emerge triumphant. How is that supposed to help me? They already forget everything I teach them anyway.

Well, almost everything. Every once in a while Maya will take a smokin’ corner kick or Maddy will quickly do the perfect throw-in, and, temporarily, all is well with the world. I guess this is why coaches keep coming back year after year. I know it’s not for the money.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wrong Side of the Fence

Have you heard that Steve Nash also likes to play soccer? Apparently he's quite good--I know his brother played for the Whitecaps-- but he might not be good enough to play with Landon Donovan, America's biggest soccer star. Check out this commercial they did together for an EA Sports FIFA videogame. How Nash feels here is exactly how I feel about getting back on the field.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Faking It

Why are so many women I know injuring themselves these days? In a heartbeat I can think of 10 women I know who have been on crutches in the last 2 years. My physiotherapist says close to 60 percent of the injured people he treats are middle aged women. What gives? Is this what we women get stuck with now for a mid-life crisis? No Corvettes or Rogaine for us, just crutches. It sucks.

Of course, some of us have bragging rights to go along with our injuries-- it was really a matter of time before I hurt myself I suppose, what with regularly hurtling myself towards metal goalposts in the middle of a group of tall, fit, young men trying to head in a corner kick-- but we women even hurt ourselves seriously by walking in our yard, or down some stairs. It's like our bones are made of balsa wood or our ligaments are as weak as tiny newborn kittens. And when we do get injured, life turns completely upside down, usually for at least a year. We would never, ever, fake something like this.

This is why it is especially troubling when professional soccer players fake serious injuries to get free kicks. My friend Frank sent me this short montage called 'Football Idiots'. Try to get past the horrible music:

Now, after watching this I wanted to write something pithy about soccer injuries but I can't say it any better than this quote I found from British author Nick Hornby, author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, and my favourite, his soccer memoir Fever Pitch. He wrote this piece as an open letter to Americans, in response to the idea that they hate soccer because they can't stand the fake injuries:

"...I understand that Americans have come to refer contemptuously to the more theatrical World Cup injuries as the "flop and bawl"-- the implication being, I think, that these players are feigning their distress. First of all, you must understand that the rest of the world is more susceptible to pain than you. Our smoking, our poor diets, and our heightened sensitivities (to both literature and life) mean that even a slight push in the back can send excruciating agony coursing through our bodies. You, however, because of your all-meat diet and your status as a bullying superpower, feel nothing, either emotionally or physically, at any time. So you can sneer at our floppers and bawlers if you want, but what does that say about you?.....And secondly, these players are terrible, awful cheats."

Hee hee. At least we can laugh while we recover.