An already great dad Chad Schefka, shares how he took notes from his son’s playbook
When I was growing up we didn’t have soccer. There wasn’t any such sport as soccer. In fact, the only sports that did exist were football, basketball, and baseball. We played baseball in the spring and summer, football in the fall, and basketball in the winter, and then it started over again.
No one in my family had any interest in soccer, no one played it, no one watched it on TV. In fact we looked down on it. The people who played it weren’t as tough as football players, or as athletic as basketball players, or as skilled as baseball players. My dislike of soccer was so intense that I had a friend in high school who was on the varsity soccer team and not once did I go and see him play (twenty years later we are not in touch anymore, not sure if that’s why or not).
It wasn’t until my first son’s love of soccer taught me that maybe I was being short sighted, that I realized having an open mind can help you to not miss out on what’s important to those you love.
Our first born son, Alex, was not unlike any other typical boy, and grew up playing mostly with sticks and rocks and wrapping paper tubes, but as he got older he started to be influenced by my interests. When I would sit down to watch a game, I noticed a slow progression from him asking, “Who’s playing?” as he flew like superman past the TV, to sitting in my lap to watch part of a game and asking me questions like, “Why does the catcher have to catch strike three?”, and then finally to him yelling out the door when Michigan scored a touchdown to tell me to get in the house so I could see the replay.
And in turn, when we weren’t watching football, baseball, or basketball, we were playing one of them in the yard. This has become even more fun since my wife and I have had a second child (he is still in the middle stage between flying like superman and sitting in my lap to watch a game).
But while all of this was happening, somehow, somewhere along the line, Alex starting kicking a soccer ball around. I’m still not sure to this day where the ball came from or how it got in the house, but there it was, and from that moment forward it has been a part of our lives.
It started with him playing on a rec league. I figured it was fine for him to play, it would probably be just the one year, and for his age there were really no other options for team sports. None of the other sports took kids younger than eight. So, I sat through a season of what is affectionately called bumble bee soccer since all six kids on the field, three on each side, followed the ball around the field kicking each other in the legs more than the ball.
We still played other sports in the backyard, baseball mostly, and between the ages of six to eight Alex had gotten quite good. So when the spring of his eighth year came around, with some influence from his dad, Alex decided he wanted to play travel baseball, and off we went on one of the fastest summers of my life. Eight year old travel teams play a lot of dang baseball, and although it ate up a big portion of our summer, I loved every minute of watching him get better and better with each game. Soon, I was having thoughts of him as the starting third basemen for his high school’s varsity team. But when baseball ended that year, that soccer ball came out again.
That fall Alex again played on the same rec league and was amazing. He only scored three goals that year in six or seven games, but his new claim to fame was to play all over the defensive side of the field and never let the other team even get a shot off. I rapidly began to feel a sense of pride in watching my son play soccer. His team even won the league’s tournament that year.
The following year Alex decided to skip baseball altogether, and went right to spring soccer. There were now five soccer balls in our house (it’s like the dang things multiply) and I found myself in the back yard helping him work on his skills. At nine he was the all-star on his team, scoring nine goals that spring from defense, sometimes going end to end with the ball. I was really enjoying watching Alex play soccer. What’s more, I started to enjoy the game of soccer itself.
This year I sat with both my sons and watched the world cup for the first time. I found myself yelling at the television when the USA team would score, as if I was watching Cabrera hit a home run to straight away center. I was amazed by Portugal’s, Cristiano Ronaldo, as he passed the ball, bending it in front of the US goal for his teammate to knock in. That is still one of the best plays I have ever seen, in any sport.
Soccer may never be my number one sport, but I realized something because of it. Our kids will always be influenced by us, their parents, and will often love what we love, especially boys as they look up to their dads. But I also now know that sometimes it’s ok if we, the dads, are influenced by our sons and take an interest in their interests. I could have easily told my boy that he was on his own with that soccer ball. For whatever reason it was something he fell in love with, and I love him, and it seemed like a good way to stay connected and a good way to spend time together, so I went outside and kicked it with him instead.
Of course we have now moved on to a travel soccer team. These soccer kids are tough, skilled athletes disproving everything I had once believed. Alex is not quite the all-star he was in the rec league now that the competition is at a higher level, but he is holding his own and he is learning a lot. We are both learning a lot. The only bad part would have to be that my youngest boy, although he tried it, decided all on his own that he doesn’t like soccer. So, sitting through long practices while his brother is on the field can get a little boring for him. Good thing I brought along a football for us to toss around.