Monday, March 14, 2011

Herding Cats and Other Absurd Scenarios

There was a great commercial a few years back for a company named EDS. Admittedly, I did not actually see this video until last week when I commented that I wondered if coaching my child's 4-year-old soccer team would feel like herding cats, in response to which my husband rushed to youtube to show me said commercial. Low and behold, a ridiculous and hilarious short video depicting cowboys trying to get a herd of cats to market.  I laughed but assumed that probably I was not giving the 4-year-olds enough credit after all and went into our first practice with a good combination of enthusiasm, clearly structured plans and optimism.

Turns out that the enthusiasm was the only really useful tool. Within about 10 minutes of practice, flashes of the commercial were zipping through my brain.  Instead of kids dribbling, mass group of children were chattering at the moon that had risen early. Instead of shooting drill, kids chasing birds. Instead of listening to my very well thought out explanations for drills, one boy interrupting to tell me that he liked the color of my soccer ball and one girl asking me (ironically) if cats were my favorite animal and another boy sharing that the Steelers were his favorite team and could we please, please, please name our soccer team after them?  We tried to do a lap around the field with them following me- when I turned around there were 13 children in various states of disarray, some on the ground (I still don't know why), some who had surreptitiously grabbed their balls and were playing with them instead of jogging, some who did not understand the concept of following a leader in an oval and had to be chased down and brought back to the field and one kid playing with a stick. Right.

I've got a week to plan for practice number two and I'm trying to figure out how to reinsert some of the optimism and planning into the reality that is herding cats, especially cats of varying degrees of listening ability, personal spunk and soccer skills. 

A few things I learned today:
One, 4-year-olds are super cute and they know it.  They will use this against you.
Two, if you can make a high-five a part of every drill, do it. They love it.
Three, set the bar low and enjoy watching flocks of birds with them. It's not worth trying to get their attention back until they've flown on. 
Four, parents of children this age will inevitably stay for the whole practice and watch your every move, occasionally chuckling. I don't know if they are laughing at me or the whole situation.  Probably both.
Five, take myself less seriously. (OK, pretty much everything in life is trying to teach me this. Possibly someday I'll get it)
And six, herding cats might be insanely chaotic, but it was pretty fun chaos and I think I'll probably learn at least 6 lessons each week from these kids that'll make me a better parent and person in general.

Now, on to making some possibly less structured, realistically optimistic plans for week 2 as well as contemplating whether it would actually make sense to name our team "The Cats," as requested. 


  1. Just wait until the weather gets nicer... then they'll be dandelions to pick in the middle of the field! That was always the best four year old soccer distraction. :-)

  2. Hey as I was reading I thought about how God must feel some of this cat issue with the church. I know at my little church we are all over the place, talking about the moon, chasing birds, falling out of the jogging line. Knowing some of where the elders and pastor want to go, feel like God is calling our church, and then watching the other leaders and members attempting to follow, but often ending up looking at the grass, or talking about the pastor's favorite animal (smile)...or other off task things. If only we were a bit more like a heard-able animal... hmmmm... like sheep!

    Great post. I hope I can be in the area one weekend and catch a game. And as a parent, I would just be laughing at the joy of watching my kid learn soccer. Your attempts would make me think that you are just the right coach for my little one. This post makes me know you are a great coach!