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September 20, 2007

Another day in the life spent preparing 3 and 4 year old boys for a career in professional soccer

“Do you guys want to play soccer?”. Both K and D say “Yes!”. Like they have a choice, since they are named after the only truly talented and creative English soccer player to ever play the game (Kevin Keegan), and the best American soccer player (Landon Donovan). (Hint: We used the player’s last names…….). We try to push past our two dogs, Pele’ and Pelota, and up to their bedroom where we choose between soccer uniforms representing Pachuca, two different Chivas uniforms, USA national team, Liverpool (K. Keegan’s old team), Corinthians, Figurense, Sao Paulo, Juventude, Brazil national team (Ronaldinho or Ronaldo), Barcelona (classic Ronaldo jersey from 7 years ago), Real Madrid, the white Santos uniform, or the black and white Santos uniform (Pele’s old team). Fifteen minutes and one potty break later, the boys are ready to joga bonita.

Now we need to find their soccer cleats, but we need to pour out the sand from their shoes first. Clapping them together like erasers at the blackboard does the job, and we are ready to double-tie our way to the soccer shoe stability. K is all over doing this on his own, but in a rare retraction from his “I can do it!” stance, D allows me to take care of the complicated procedure for him.

“Are we ready to go?”. No. Now we need to get snacks and water bottles to energize and rehydrate their finely tuned athletic Bionicle-like machines.  Another ten minutes pass by as we stock up for the “soccer game”, but who is counting? Actually, with my Monk-like qualities, it is what I do, it is who I am. I am counting.

After both boys find a toy for the car ride, we enter my car. I squeeze the boys into their booster seats past the 17 size two soccer balls, 18 size four soccer balls, 20 size five soccer balls, 19 size three soccer balls, 10 size three Futsal balls, 38 small cones, 9 larger cones, 12 hurdles (1’ high), 10 training poles, 11 speed rings for agility, and four “pop-up” goals. I like to think that the whole car is equipped with air bags made by Adidas. We get to the park (closest one to our house that has a good play structure) and I unload a lion’s share of my soccer training arsenal out of the car, as well as the snack and water bottles. I carry the Jupiter-sized equipment to the field and the boys bring the Pluto-sized snacks for all of ten feet before deciding it is too heavy to carry, and that I need to carry it. What is another bag when you are already carrying enough stuff to train a national soccer team? (Side note: K let us know last month that Pluto is no longer a planet, it is just a big piece of ice……but it is too heavy to lift it.)

The size two soccer balls are out of the bag, the pop-up goals are set up, and the hurdles, speed rings and cones are set up with a care and precision only a Monte Carlo random number generator could love. The stage is set, and the training is about to begin. All we need to do is sing our national anthem (“Poop can’t fly but it can roll”) and figure out what game we are going to play. Initial training sessions used to focus on throwing speed rings for distance and falling down dead if the ball they kick hit me in the legs. Now we spend the training sessions with me showing them cool dribbling moves (“Try this!”), reminding them they can’t use their hands (just words in the wind), kicking down cones and shooting all the balls into the goal as fast as they can, and trying to resolve the numerous battles/fights/bruised feelings that rear their ugly head (somewhere between 10 and infinity + 1 times).

Their snacks are eaten and their thirst is quenched somewhere between 30 seconds and 30 minutes after the training begins. With amazing timing, the referee blows the whistle to end the game (his first good call all day) just after K or D tell me they don’t want to play anymore, and we retire to the showers/play structure for a healthy dose of aromatherapy (sand, peanut butter and little boy sweat) and a massage (going down the slide upside down). We go over the results of the training session as they fall asleep in their booster seats, dreaming of finding their missing Power Ranger when they get home. Another successful day of training for my two future hall of famers.