‘We’re not here to play airplanes. We’re here to play soccer.’

I heard myself say this the other day to a couple of 4-year-olds (not mine):

“We’re not here to play airplanes. We’re here to play soccer.” I was trying my best to channel Mr. Rogers.

Thing 2’s soccer coach couldn’t make it, and he’d asked me and another dad to fill in. We were playing a scrimmage, and 2 of my 3 players had decided they’d rather be airplanes.

“Let’s just do the best we can,” I said. The boys nodded — one gave me a really sweet, really sincere thumbs up — and we lined up.

“What’s your name?” a boy on the other team asked.

Todd, I said.

He thought this was really funny, like I’d said my name was Booger.

The other dad blew his whistle (why didn’t I get a whistle?), and his team drove the ball down the field. Thing 2 was on my team, and he did his best to steal the ball, but his teammates had taken off, soaring low over the neighboring soccer field, swooping and diving toward the parking lot, their moms chasing after them.

Then, the boy who thought my name was funny thought it would be funny to bounce the ball off my bottom.

It was pretty fun, being a substitute soccer coach, but I’ll be glad when the real coach gets back. You’ve got to have a lot of patience and a good sense of humor to coach a bunch of kids, especially a bunch of 4-year-old boys.

I could handle it for an hour, but I don’t think I’d last a full season.

Those who can, coach. Those who can’t, bring the snacks.

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