Momita and I are driving out to Long Island for lacrosse camp – day one. M-ito is in the back seat all geared up. We’ve got shoulder pads, shin guards, cleats, helmet, stick, and mouthpiece. We hear a knocking sound, like a knuckle on wood. It’s the sound of M-ito knocking on his cup. It’s his first one and he’s been fascinated by it ever since he put it on.
“This is so cool. Can you imagine if you got hit super hard with a ball right here?”
“It would hurt,” I say from the front seat.
M-ito ignores me and keeps knocking on his plastic cup.
I can’t remember the first time I wore one, but it was probably when I was seven and played my first year of football. I don’t remember it being anything fun to explore. But for my son – it is.
Knock, knock, knock.
All the parents have pulled out, the moms, the dads, the aunts and uncles. There’s thirty kids and three coaches, and me. M-ito goes with the older kids, sixteen in all and one of the coaches. the younger group goes with the two other coaches. I talk to one coach about my son and how new he is but the coach assures me they’ll figure out his skill level and put him in the right group soon enough. M-ito’s friend from school is four months younger and goes with the younger group.
I last sitting on the sidelines for half an hour, watching the young man with a lot of energy but not a lot of skills when it comes to keeping sixteen rambunctious kids of all different skill levels occupied, try to coach them through some drills. He’s young enough to still try and show off, doing back flips to impress the boys. He yells a lot and is constantly trying to get the kids in line. But he’s alone and doing drills with one boy going at a time leaves too many idle. That means fifteen are waiting around looking for something to do while they wait on line. That’s trouble waiting to happen. The temperature is high, already over ninety degrees. When he ends a drill I yell, “Water break,” and the coach says, “Good idea. Go get some water!” As he passes me I offer to help. “I’m going to be here all day so if you need any help, I’ll be glad to. Just tell me what to do.” The young man hesitates a second, then says, “Sure.”
I walk on to the field and I hear my son say, “Why does it have to be you?”
I know he’s talking about me and it stings but a Dad-dito’s gotta do what a Dad-dito’s gotta do. I get placed on a line and tell the kids to shoot on goal when they get to me while they’re doing drills. I tell kids to chase the ball they threw past the goal. I ask kids to get in line. I help them put on helmets , snap chin straps, put on elbow guards, put on mesh jerseys, hand out oranges to the kids who want them because I brought extras. I tap each one on the helmet when I’m done helping them with their equipment and tell them to “go.” One boy makes two comments about girls that are as old and sexist as they come. Some of the kids laugh. The coach asks him to watch his mouth the first time. The second time I go over to him on water break, tap him on the shoulder, point his face up to me a few inches away, and quietly say, “I don’t ever want to hear that language again. You understand?” The boy looks at me then nods and looks away. I tap him on the helmet and he keeps his mouth shut the rest of the day.
Mostly I keep my mouth shut and watch, do what the coach tells me to do and try to make sure no one gets hurt.
M-ito does well in the drills, is tentative in the skirmishes as he should be as a first timer, needs help on where to position himself on the field on both offense and defense but the coach is hot and tired and hasn’t explained the rules or any team tactics so he along with the other inexperienced kids are left to guess. I shout some suggestions during the scrimmage. “Spread out. Pass to the open man. Some concepts are the same no matter what sport.” Maybe the tactics talk will come tomorrow. There is one kid who knocks another kid down, cleans his clock actually. It was uncalled for and done not while he was going for the ball. He’s made to take a lap. He head checks another kid a few minutes later and I see it but the coach doesn’t. I let it go even though there are words between the players. It’s the same kid I talked to about his mouth earlier. That one’s trouble.
The first day of camp ends in a deep sweat with the kids getting hosed off with a power washer and the coach glad his first day is over. I wonder what he’s got in store for tomorrow. I talk to Mom-ita and we both agree M-ito ‘s going in the younger group with the newer players tomorrow. He argues at first, but his friend convinces him. He signed up to play with his friend in the first place and it’s a good reason to play with the other two coaches, who seemed to be a little more adept at what they were doing.
Gino’s Pizza and M-ito and his friend are laughing and fooling around, tickling each other and chomping their pizza alternately. The air conditioner is on. It’s 96 degrees outside. They both said they had a good time and want to go back tomorrow for more.
I hear it’s supposed to rain.
At least it’ll be cooler.