My Final Words to my Sister

My Sister Peggy

I previously blogged about my Sister who was almost 10 years older than me. You can read those blogs here and here.

There were four of us in the family, my two brothers Norman, the oldest and Peter and then my Sister Peggy as she was known. (Her real name was Barbara Eileen and I have no idea where Peggy came from).They were all grouped closely together and then there was me, who arrived 10 years after them. Later on in life, I learned there was a lot of chatter about my Mum having an affair with a guy named Basil from Punnetts Town and the gossip goes that he was my real Father.

Anyway, the point is that I really didn’t know any of them very well until much later in life when we were all adults (sort of adult in my case). Back then, there was a war going on and all three of them enlisted. When they returned, they were all grown up and I was still just a kid and I never got to know them at all. Peter died of the after effects of rheumatic fever that he had contracted during his time in service and which left him with a very weak heart. That left Norman and Peggy who were busy getting on with their own lives. My Mother had met a GI and left us to come to the USA and my Father remarried which was followed by my stint at living with my Step Mother, whom I disliked intensely. I moved again to live first with my Aunt Elsie in Sandy Cross until she became too sick and then moved in with Peggy and Ron and her family in Hailsham for a couple of years as I moved around in my earlier troubled life. I remember that I was often called upon to be the babysitter for their two kids Jim and Sheila, a job that I thought of as unfair to keep me from being with my friends and kicking a football (soccer) ball around.

Both Norman and his second family, having divorced his Egyptian wife that he met during the war, and my Sister and her family followed me over here to America and we all settled in at Fort Plain, New York where our Mother lived with her husband Hermie. That was the closest that we had ever been as a collective family and it only lasted a few years as I moved out to Texas following my marital break up. I barely saw them much after that and then only on the very few trips that I made back to Fort Plain. I came back for Normans funeral when he died of Alzheimer’s and for my one last visit to my Step Father, Hermie prior to his death of lung cancer. Then our Mother died at the ripe old age of 94 and after that, I didn’t see Peggy again. She was the only one of the original family left. She lost her husband Ron and then moved to Florida to live with her Daughter and their family. I kept saying I would go visit but much to my regret, I never made that trip. That was all probably 15-20 years ago and although we stayed in touch we never physically made any more contact. We kept in touch either by letter or by the occasional phone call. One day, a couple of years ago, when I called to speak with her, Gary, Sheila’s husband and with whom Peggy was living, told me to say that she wasn’t mentally doing well and was in the first stages of Alzheimer’s and was very confused. This got progressively worse and when I called a couple of times after that and I tried to talk to her she just ranted on about where she used to live in Hailsham and had no clue to whom she was speaking. That was my last verbal contact with her. A couple of months ago, Gary and Sheila moved her into a special old folks home where she was living out her life and seemingly doing very well. On Friday last, I got a call from Gary telling me that my Sister was gone. She had died in her sleep at the age of 93.

All in all not a very good day all around. The truth is that we never grew up together and I was just a teenager when I lived with them and not really knowing which end was up. Now, as an old man I lack the compassion to feel much of a loss as time and lack of contact has eroded much of the sisterly or brotherly feelings between us. All I can say is that she was my Sister and in my own distant way, I loved her. Because of the Alzheimer’s we had stopped communicating a long time ago. Such a shame but that is the way of the world.

Now, I am the only original member left of this family…

Written 3/9/2020

That Time of Year Again

Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year.

Thanksgiving has come and gone
and all that is left to carry on
with Christmas next on the list
when everyone is supposed to wish
Good Health and Happiness to one and all
and to the religious to heed the call
be nice to your neighbor and wish them well
and keep to yourself no secrets to tell
it matters not who sings the song
all that is left is to carry on.
go to the store and spoil the kids
and get them whatever  they wish
for kids they will not be for long
and before you know it big and strong
as people with their own family
inviting you to their Christmas Tree
and you will sit at their table of food
before long with grand kids to add to the brood
and then you will say “What a wonderful day”
as your life if finally slipping away
and old you will be as you look at the tree
and remember back at what you see
all those many years ago
when the kids were young and you put on a show
exactly like the one today
only fifty years later as you say
“Where did the time go I’m too old to play”
as you sit in the chair with your Grand Kids today
and remember those Christmases of years gone by
the time that has passed you understand why
it has nothing to do with the time of year
the Family together bringing good cheer
its the warmth and love that a family brings
to an old man and his wife the Mother of all things.

Written 11/25/2018

Writing a note…

Quill pen and bookWhen it comes to computers, I’m pretty smart
and don’t do too bad for such an old fart
when the technology first came out
I embraced it without even a doubt
of disbelief with wonders so fine
of how I could type a printed line
with two fingers only I do fear
as typing was not a skill that was taught
as most people had to work hard to write
with a stubby pencil and then before long
the Biro was invented, an English term
for ball point pens as they were known then.

Before this wonder of the modern age
a pen and ink were always displayed
so prominently on every school desk
and penmanship was really a test
of patience and caring and taking time
to make your writing so very fine
and it was an art all by itself
to write letters in longhand
with words oh so neat
that those who received them
were in for a treat.

Nowadays written letters are rare
from someone close that really does care
and has taken the time to sit down and write
in longhand although it has to be said
that the writing itself just gets by
and is no longer an art as in yesterday
no pen and ink to put down words
instead a ball point pen of the modern kind
to scribble a note barely able to read
as writing is becoming a lost art
as everyone types, so much easier to do
and if you can’t spell don’t worry about it
the computer will check and corrections make
and your choice of fonts that you can even fake
the writing of old that was done with care
in days gone by when people had time
when they wanted to drop a line.

Old Fashioned Writing

Old Fashioned Writing

Do I miss the good old days
I guess I do in so many ways
when it comes to sending a note
my writing is not that good I’m afraid
for me the computer is a really good thing
as now, people can read what I write
and my words are not held up in the post
as instead they are sent as quick as a flash
by e-mail, the modern way to send notes
and although, no personal touches are there
the printed word is what we share.

As only old folks can remember when
we used to write with an old-fashioned pen
and that’s the way that it should be
as time marches forward to a modern age
and just as it quickly turns the page.
and old people like me have to scramble to learn
and to keep up with youth as its their turn
and life will never again be the same.
and I’m glad to be a part of that game.

Considering the alternatives…

Love has done it again

The woman is always the boss

The woman is always the boss

You know that friend, I met him again
this time a picture of misery
no longer was he in a swoon
but instead he acted as though his doom
had been met and there was no place to go
as he had already sunk pretty low.

This younger woman who had smitten him
had a mind of her own as most women do
and in fact she had turned him down
and not only that had put the blame
on him for not taking things nice and slow
instead because he wanted to know
just how serious things would become
and she told him that he was dumb
for expecting a sweet young thing like she
who was only looking to have a good time
with an older man with a lot of dimes.
“In any case” she had said,”In truth, I am already wed”.

He said to me, “It’s all your fault.
If I had never listened to you
and on my knee did ask this girl
to marry me and be my wife
but instead she laughed at me
for acting out this wild assed dream
and said that I had made a scene”
and then she told me goodnight
“Oh, and by the way, save your
thoughts for another day and with another
woman try for you are dreaming pie in the sky”.

I said, “Sorry, I called that one wrong
but I did forewarn you that it if you try
there would be no turning back
in your attempts to catch this girl”.

He thought about this for a while
and then he turned to me with a smile
and said, “Yes, you know you are right
I was an idiot to believe, that I could deceive this girl
into thinking that it was anything less,
and in truth what I really wanted her for
was as a trophy,  to put on my wall.
What other use would I have of she
so young, so beautiful and so naive of me
and after all the bottom line
was that she wanted to spend my dime”.

“I thank you for helping me
to see the error of my ways
and rescuing me from her grasp
and I think she will be my last
from here on out a bachelor me”.

A month later I  saw my friend
and I said, “Wait a minute, I know that look
I can read you like an open book,
don’t tell me you’ve done it again
and found yourself another girl”.

This time he turned to me and said,
“I met this woman much older this time
she is not after my dimes,
as money of her own has she
and in truth, much more than me
she is not married for I checked
I plan on taking this nice and slow
just so that I can show
that her money is not what attracts me”.

I shook his  hand and said, ” That’s nice
why don’t I believe your lies?
Your just a renegade at heart
doing your best, playing your part
and I think the reason why
you’re afraid that life is passing you by”.

He said, “You’re probably right
and I’m not going down without a fight
there is no place for me to go
to get what I think is coming to me”.

I said,” You called that right
you will definitely get into a plight
if with any woman you mess
my advice to you still stands
leave them alone for one thing I found
as beautiful and tempting for what they offer
is just not worth the price to be a lover”.

Just then, my cell phone rang
it was my wife wanting to know
when would I be home and by the way
stop at the store for we need this today
and don’t be late as you well know
that a dinner date to honor a friend
we must go.

I said yes dear, no dear and emitted a sigh
and my friend started to laugh, the reason why
“My goodness man, your no better than me
wrapped up in your own form of misery. At least
one thing is now clear, your advice I shall no longer heed
Good Luck with the dinner date”, he said
as he threw back his head and off into the night did go
whistling Dixie as he went.


The Mark Gregg Memorial Service

Mark Gregg Memorial Tree

Mark Gregg Memorial Tree

Those of us in the soccer community in Austin, Texas gathered together this past Saturday to honor one of our own, Mark Gregg, who sadly had passed away from heart failure a couple of weeks ago. As with most memorial events, this was not meant to be a sad occasion although with the passing of a very dear friend, tears are never very far away. With so many people telling so many different stories the moods changed from one speaker to the next. The people gathered were here to celebrate Mark’s life in its many and varied aspects and how he had touched so many individuals both singly and in large groups. This was in fact, a gathering that we could hear of the things Mark had accomplished and more so, how he had touched so many other people’s lives.


Onion Creek Soccer Complex

We assembled at the Onion Creek Soccer Complex for which Mark was so very instrumental in working with the City to form an alliance which enabled the Austin Men’s Soccer Association become working partners with the City on this project the end result of which is a beautiful complex of 10 full size soccer fields. The weather was very cooperative with the sun not yet out in full force to vent its fury of another typical summer’s day in Texas. With a stiff breeze blowing, the hundred plus people from all walks of life who came to join in the celebration were able to enjoy it in comfort. When I arrived around 9:00 am, there were small crowds of people standing around and chattering to each other. Many were friends from way back and had not seen each other in years. Others were team mates and friends who saw each other on a regular basis. Many were dressed in soccer shirts of teams they either played with or had players they admired. The Wanderers, Mark’s team, all came dressed in their black and white striped uniforms and presented a pretty solid picture of teamwork and camaraderie as they stood together in a tight group ready to bid their farewells both as a team and as individuals to one they had all known and admired for so long.


Soccer shirts in abundance

I wandered around talking to people I hadn’t seen in years and others who I had never met and had the pleasure of meeting for the first time. We chatted and recalled days gone by and of this play and that goal and ,”Do you remember..”. “Have you heard from…” and on and on. I looked at some of these fellow players and thought how old they looked and that I suppose I looked just as old to them. The passing of time had been kind to a few but others showed its forever relentless forward march.  There was a lot of grey hair and to more than a few, the loss of hair on the top seemed to be in vogue. Not sure that these old guys were following the latest fashion trend or just doing as men have done the world over and for time immemorial in losing ones hair. To think that modern young men shave their heads to keep up with the local fashion trend. Heck, they only have to wait a bit and Mother Nature and Father Time between them will give them a permanent hair style almost just like the rest of us. As is the norm when people of the same athletic interest get together especially if they have not seen each other in a while, stories and comparisons of different surgeries topped by the big one, the knee replacement were the topic of the moment especially if as it was in all cases, a career ending injury. These players all walked around displaying 6-8 inch scars on their knees and wore them like badges of honor. Those that still were somewhat capable, boasted about still playing although in truth, “playing” in many cases, consisted of showing up and stepping on the field for 5 minutes and consuming vast quantities of beer for that effort, probably to celebrate that they had awakened that morning and then that they had “played” in yet one more game. Once upon a time many years ago, these same guys were all young strapping individuals, some with good skills others very athletic but all with the same purpose of playing a game for which the top honor was to be on the team declared as “Champions” for that season. They were all competitive with never a thought of age and what it can do to a body. Today, those same players were assembled 20 or so years later ready to re-live the game just one more time in honor of a fallen comrade. I looked at them as they stood in a tight little group and wondered what thoughts were going through their minds at that instant. For me, it brought home just one more time how fine a line we all walk between life and death and just how little control we have over it.

Phil Friday

Phil Friday

Phil Friday, another venerable and well-respected member of this grey haired body of soccer players, approached the microphone to get things started. Phil is one of the founder members of the Austin Men’s Soccer League and any praise coming from him, is praise indeed. He is also the very first person that my wife at the time, contacted to find me a team to play on just after moving to Texas from New York State. That was in 1977 and Phil and I have been friends for over 35 years. He began by outlining Mark’s life and role as ex President of the Austin Men’s Soccer Association and how he had dragged this body out of the dark ages into the 21st Centurywith a few of us, kicking and screaming along the way. Change is difficult and many of us were comfortable in the existing ways and did not want to see change.


Konnie Guenther Gregg

Konnie, Mark’s wife was up next and there were not too may dry eyes when she had finished talking. From her, we learned of Mark’s love of his family and his Grandkidsand his never-ending love and affection for them and for anyone who had the good fortune to cross paths with Mark. Once you met Mark, and if he so chose, you were indeed a part of his extended family. Person after person stood up to extol the virtues that each had been a part of with their association with Mark and his family. There were people from all over the State, the country and even from overseas and all had a unique story to tell. What made this so very interesting is that the next person would stand up and talk about a whole different subject that Mark had somehow been involved in with them personally and the number of organizations that he had helped to found and then run, was quite astounding.

One of the funnier moments was when Sergio Escobar, President of Club America, one of the larger Hispanic Soccer Clubs that play at the complex, was discussing how Mark always had a ready smile which he flashed on every occasion showing a mouthful of well maintained teeth.  Turns out that Sergio was Mark’s dentists…

Finally, members of Mark’s immediate family including many of his Grandchildren stood up and even though many of them were very distressed, they were all very determined to tell their story and how Mark, their Granddaddy, had helped them in their lives and how much they loved and missed him. At some point or another, Mark had coached all of the Grandkids, at least those old enough to play, in the fundamentals of becoming good soccer players and I’m quite sure at the same time, those life lessons that one learns on the sports field.

It there had been any dry eyes through the earlier proceedings, there were none at the end as we gave up trying  to hide the tears that were flowing from us all. Grown men who routinely faced each other on the soccer field were not afraid to weep and show their love for this wonderful man that we had all just lost. Mixed in with the sadness was this huge aura of love that seemed to affect us just as though Mark was making his presence felt just one more time.

Matt Prewitt

Matt Prewitt

Matt Prewitt, the current President of Austin Men’s Soccer Association closed out the formalities with a well prepared speech noting in his remarks that Mark had made it known to everyone that cared to listen, that Matt was going to be the next President whether he wanted to be or not. Such was the determination and the resolve of the man that in the end, Mark had Matt believing he could do the job.  Mark chose well and Matt is turning out to be a very good Presidential replacement for Mark moving forward. Maybe, I should rephrase this to say to say that no one can replace Mark least of all Matt. Sure, another person can be President and maybe do an even better job than Mark but how do you replace this man with his cheerful smile, and gentle ways and yet with his steely resolve to get things done.

With Matt’s final speech, it was time for the closing ceremonies which were equally as impressive and just as sad. Mark had chosen cremation and as a nice and unusual touch instead of his ashes being cast to the winds as is the usual custom, he planned to be the very foundation for the Texas Native Monterey Oak tree that the family had purchased and to act for the tree, just as he had done throughout his lifetime for countless others to help promote and then sustain their lives. The immediate family gathered around the tree and each took a turn in sprinkling some of Mark’s ashes in the space where this tree would hopefully spend the next hundred years. They, and those of us lucky enough to have been invited to this wonderful occasion, all believe that with Mark’s ashes as a foundation, this tree should grow and be around for a very long time. Of one thing we can be certain, given the proper care and attention, that tree will outgrow every single one of us at the Memorial including the youngest of the Grandkids…

With the tree very carefully placed back in the hole, the family took turns to place a shovel full of dirt back around the tree until it was all cleaned up and properly mulched. A vast quantity of white balloons were anchored to a tent and when I first noticed them I thought of them as decoration but they were to play a part in this celebration.  The final act of this beautiful ceremony was to release these balloons which is one the Gregg family traditions when a member of their family passes on. The balloons were handed out and on a  signal from Konnie, Marks wife, these balloons were sent into the air and Mark’s final trip was over. Maybe that is not entirely true as Mark’s spell on earth may have run its course but with the release of the balloons, each white and pure, maybe, just maybe, one of them was carrying Mark’s spirit to where it was going to end up in his next life.

Releasing the Balloons

Releasing the Balloons

To those of us that knew him well, Mark will never be forgotten. His quiet personality coupled with his quick smile endeared himself to all who knew him. His love of his fellow-man and his immediate family puts most of us to shame as not too many have that much love to share. I had the luxury of driving with Mark to Corpus Christi for a meeting one time and in that five-hour drive, we had that  opportunity to exchange a lot of views of the world, our lives in general, the future and just about everything else under the sun. Of one thing I am sure. Mark knew a lot more about me than I did about him by the time we had arrived home. Such was the quality of the man that he had the ability to make one feel so at ease. Those that he left behind will now need to move on with their own lives knowing that although he is no longer a phone call away, he is still looking over those that he cares for the most.

Mark, May God Rest Your Soul. If I could have had just a teeny bit of the love and affection that you had for your fellow-man, maybe, just maybe I might  have turned out to be just a little more caring and a much better individual.

Mark, our friend, has passed on
from the land of the living to a different one

where he has no problems for him to solve and can spend his time
however he wish. Because of the nature of the man
 love is the most endearing thing that people like Mark
can bring to others who do not have so much to share and yet
we do not realize how lucky we are that we have known a man so great,
so sharing, so loving and so humble and to whom everyone was his friend.
What can we say except our days were brightened because of him
and I for one am very glad that of all the people in the world
he chose to share a part of his life with me.

Mark Gregg

Mark Gregg


Mark Gregg 1948-2012

Mark Gregg

Mark Gregg

It is with much sadness I have to report
the passing of one much-loved in the sport
of soccer,   in Austin.
He left his mark on the game and things won’t be the same
without him being around to keep us all straight

Mark Gregg was his name and no Hall of Fame
but I’m sure that it will only take time.
As his contributions were many with AMSA
Not only was he able to play but the President
he did become and for four years did guide
in transition from rag-tag to business the league did become
as he steered this ship through it’s growing stages
picking leaders to help so when that day came
he was able to step away from the table
knowing full well that it was able to run without him
under the capable hands of Matt who Mark had
shown the way so that when that fateful day
of Mark stepping down did arrive, he was able to move back
into the shadows from whence he came.

But this is about Mark and I knew him for years
I played alongside him when younger us both
in Dallas and places where we did go
to play in tournaments and to have fun as befits
the name that the team had, The Wanderers.

Mark loved the game as much as his life
and some of us wondered even more than his wife
but with him all the way, Konnie was ready
to travel with him just for fun
and she even played when Mark upped his game
and played Coed soccer on Jeff Lindzey’s team.

It would be easy to write of nothing but sport
but there was much more to Mark and though he was short
he loved the challenges that soccer can bring
and usually gave almost everything
in the heat of the battle, he stood his ground
but when it was over and things had settled down
the perfect gentleman Mark quickly became
quick to forgive any transgressions of force.

Mark was a gentle soul and loved life,
his Kids and Grandkids and loved Konnie his wife
of 45 years that love stood the test
He made the rest of us feel so at ease
and with him around, we all tried to please
one another as he had the gift
of soothing us all and giving us a lift
as we travelled along together with Mark.

Farewell Mark, we will remember you well
as a friend to us all as you always did tell
us to keep smiling, stay happy and enjoy the life
that we are given and if by chance we meet again
on that soccer pitch in the sky forever so green
then having known you will make it seem
that we are back on Earth and ready to go
one more time…

Sleep Peacefully my friend…

Today was the day

Rangers Parents and kids at the U11Game

Rangers Parents and kids at the U11 Game

Well, the day finally arrived. What, may you ask, is “the day”?

Let me tell you all about it. For several weeks since the end of the regular season, the U11 boys team has had a challenge in to play their parents. Keep in mind here this is U11 boys challenging “old” people as compared to the kids they normally play against. That by itself adds to the seriousness of the event  made even worse that the “old” people are the boys parents and there is always a fear in the back of the boy’s mind that if a parent gets beaten by his son on the field, he or she can always revert back to the parent mode and use threats of grounding or no TV if the kid does it again. I’m not saying for one minute that it happened but as we were not on the field within earshot, it’s hard to say one way or the other. Maybe it happened in the car on the way to the game. Who knows…

Some of the Parents team

Some of the Parents team

But, I get ahead of myself. Todd Shaw, was really the driving force behind the game actually getting played. He arranged for the field at Quarry and for Aubrey Daniels to come out and Referee and we thank both Todd for his work and Aubrey for being willing to be a part of this momentous event and to put up with the boos and cat calls for some of his decisions. The final plans were finalized a couple of weeks before the actual game date.

Then it started. I am not sure who threw the first barb but whoever did unleashed a flood gate of trash talking e-mails not from just one parent but from several. They contained all kinds of threats and promises of what the parent’s team was going to do to the boys. As I was the only Adult in the kids corner, I could not let that happen without some sort of retaliation and, I’m sorry to say, I had to resort to trash talking right back at them. I got in a few licks but was facing superior numbers. For every e-mail I wrote, there were 3-4 responses. Honestly, it was terrible and I was glad when game day finally came around.

That didn’t prevent the Parents still going at it with the trashy e-mails right up to the kick off as they were resorting to threats against their own kids, like keeping them up all night or feeding them ice cream or not waking them to get them to the game in time. Hanks Dad even had a plan where Hank was going to have to ride his bike to the game. Real desperate stuff like that. To make matters worse, we had a lot of rain on Thursday and more at my house on Friday so we were all up in the air as to whether the field would be playable. There were all kinds of Plan B and Plan C floating around and most of us were totally confused until Todd solved it all by taking a quick trip to Quarry to determine that the field was in fact, playable.

I took a chance on Todd keeping the secret and not divulging to anyone outside of the soccer circle of the time-tested method of checking to see if the field was playable. This is a well-kept secret among the soccer and Refereeing community and has been well protected for at least one hundred years so none of you can let this out or my name will be mud. I quote: “For those of you that don’t understand the very technical procedure used to determine if fields are playable after a visible inspection of obvious things like standing water and mud, is to place a foot on the ground and spin on that foot. If you tear up a chunk of dirt and grass, then the field is not playable. It is best done with cleats on as they provide a real test.” This took years of research to come up with this one…

By the time all of this had transpired and Tim had notified everybody that it was a go, I left my house almost 30 minutes later than I normally would and did not arrive at Quarry until 9:30 am, coffee in hand and ready to go. The kids were doing their normal thing kicking the ball at each other in the pretense that they were shooting on goal. As usual, there were three kids kicking the ball as hard as they could at the other nine or ten who were the goalkeepers. Hank came up to me complaining that they would not listen to him and he had tried to warm them up. I gathered the group together and they included additional players in Andrew Scott, Frankie Mauro and Lucas Dulitzky. Frankie is Andrew and Dominic’s younger brother and Lucas is Leo’s younger brother. This brought our team total to fourteen players in all.

I sent them for a run in the opposite direction to that of the group of parents who jeered and whistled at us as they ran by. I then made them do their dynamics all over again and reminded them that as team Captain, they should listen to Hank and do things properly, the way they have been taught.

While we were doing our thing, the bedraggled looking bunch at the other end of the field, some with cleats, others in sneakers, some with shin guards and others with their socks rolled down, were trying to emulate what we were doing except the dynamics which I guess may have been a much too sophisticated form of stretching than they were used to. They did manage to run the lap with some semblance of order but there was an awful lot of winded people when they were through. I think that is how Ariel Dulitzky who had been nominated as team captain by the rest of the group, mainly because none of the others wanted to do it, picked the starting line up. He figured that if the player was not sucking wind and breathing heavy after the lap, that meant they had enough wind left to make the first runs up and down the field. All in all, a pretty good plan.

I gathered the kids together and tried to explain to them that the motley crew on the other side of the pitch were NOT their parents but just a rag-tag bunch of people who had gotten together with the misguided perception that they were a soccer team and that we needed to play real hard, I mean REAL hard against them and show them how soccer should be played. I could see the wheels turning as those that knew how to slide tackle were weighing up the odds of not only actually doing it and doing it right but what were their chances of survival once the parents got them home if they committed to making one, especially on their own Mom or Dad.

I had some time to think about line ups while the kids were warming up and came up with the brilliant idea of having two teams and subbing them in and out every ten minutes. This gave everyone 30 minutes of playing time. I left the sweeper in for twenty minutes at a time for stability and Jack stayed in-goal the whole game as he usually does. Even though the kids knew the plan, it didn’t stop them from asking me every two minutes, “Can I go in Coach, put me in Coach, when are we going back in Coach” until I was almost ready to put all fourteen players on the field at the same time. I have never known the boys to be so up for a game as they were for this one. They each wanted to get their licks in against the parents and they didn’t care whose parent it was. In the boys eyes, they were all fair game.

Father versus son

Father versus son

The game itself started well with the boys passing the ball around as though they meant business. As one attack developed, one of the parents put his foot through the ball and it travelled the length of the pitch. That kinda sobered the boys up a bit and the parents began to get into the game and although their team skills were lacking, individually a couple of them had some serious soccer skills which they started to use on the boys. Give the boys credit though as they never shirked a tackle and it was not a bit unusual to see a couple of the boys chasing down one parent and in many cases, winning the ball.

Then disaster struck as one of the parents, Ana, Miguel’s Mom, got in a lucky shot from about 20 yds that whizzed into the goal like a rocket. I say lucky because the rest of the similar shots had missed by a country mile. Give the boys credit though as they still tried to play good passing football and as the half wore on, it was obvious that they had superior fitness as the parents were subbing out every 3 minutes. Heck, they didn’t even wait for it to be their subbing opportunity or the ball to go out-of-bounds and they were coming off even as the game was ongoing. Kinda subbing on the fly, so to speak. Sort of thing you do in pickup games not in high quality games with so much at stake like this one. The boys tried to make allowances for the lack of fitness because the parents were “old” as they put it.

Every time the boys had an opportunity to get close to the parents goal, there was this huge bloke with a red jersey, Kurt Sauer, Hanks Dad, that just frightened them to death. Talk about intimidation. Didn’t matter if he got the ball, he just had to make a move towards it and you could see our players backing off. No wonder he wore red. He knew it was a sign of danger. Very clever with a very dramatic effect. When I talked to them about it, they said they were afraid of hurting him if it came down to a one on one. To be fair, he had this huge clearance that almost put the ball out of the park and I think the boys were afraid that we would lose soccer balls or at the very least, they would be the ones to have to go and get them.Or maybe they were afraid that they would be ones flying out of the park…

Normie showing his perfect form

Normie showing his perfect form

Then disaster struck a second time only this time, there was this element of luck which went the parents way. One of the parents, was trying to tackle one of the boys who was playing defence on the top of the box and who should have cleared the ball. Instead from where I was, it looked like the parent managed to fall over bowling into the younger player and knocking him down. The ball rolled loose and Ariel Dulitzky on the other team managed to poke it into the goal. What I would call a very dubious goal. Not how Ariel scored it, which was a very nice finish but in the lead up to it.If anything, it should have been a foul against the original parent. I guess the Referee felt that they needed all the luck they could get and suddenly, it was 2-0 and the parents on the sidelines went absolutely nuts when the second goal was scored. I think that secretly, all of that trash talk had them a little worried and when they realized they were winning, it was like a big relief to them. The boys, at least those that were paying attention, were just booing and hissing at the Referee for not calling the foul. The rest was too busy pestering me to get them back into the game.

As the first half wore on, Ian made one of his famous dribbling runs starting inside his own half, beating the opponents and leaving  them stranded and managed to finish with a rocket of a shot that was so hard, the parent goalkeeper, Kurt Sauer, who could only turn it into his own net. So at half time, the score was 2-1 to the parents. The boys came off all excited that we had pulled one back and were full of their own plans on how to play the second half.I gave them my usual pep talk which mainly consisted of “drink lots of water, listen to me, stop messing around, second string go out and do the same as in the first half, pay attention,  someone needs to score goals”. The kids, who had heard this  monologue for an entire season said yes in all the right places and wisely nodded their heads in unison as though to say, “We got this coach. We heard this all before”.

Alex takes on two Parents

Alex takes on two Parents

The second half started and went back and forward just as the first had with neither side scoring any goals. Then the parents managed to scramble one in. This one was a real family affair as Cristina Mauro passed to her husband Gary Mauro who beat one of the Mauro twins and suddenly, it was 3-1 to the parents with things not looking too good for the boys. Leo came close when he had a one on one with the parents keeper,  Norm Boyd,  only to hit his shot directly at him. Both sets of supporters were getting extremely loud and noisy and were harassing the Referee for the fouls he called  and even those he didn’t call. The parents thought the calls were going against them while the boys were calling for the Referee to start handing out red cards for some of the tackles that were flying in. Aubrey handled it all with good grace knowing that it was all in good fun. One parent, Katie Skipsey, Taylor Mom, managed to trip up one of the boys and was so embarrassed that she had to exit the field in a hurry accompanied by the jeers and cat calls from the boys and to the cheers from her own team.

Then Leo had another opportunity and this time, he put this one away. Suddenly, the score was 3-2 to the parents and you could see them start to panic as they could see their lead slipping away. The boys were attacking time after time but could not score the tieing goal and with less than a minute to play, the boys that were on the sidelines rushed onto the field in one group, picked up the ball to the amazement of the players already on the field, played handball with it and carried it into the parents goal. Aubrey, the Referee hadn’t a clue what was going on and finally blew his whistle to end the game. The boys claim it as a legitimate goal to make up for the earlier foul on their player. I don’t know of anything in the rules that condone this method of scoring and the fact that we had fourteen players on the field was probably also illegal…

Both teams lined up for the customary hand shakes and this time, both teams really meant it. The game was pretty good at times and both the parents and the boys including myself, had a wonderful time. What was great about it as one of the parents wrote in an e-mail later was that this particular group of parents really care for their kids and have the kids interests at heart enough to make them want to join in with something that is a part of the boy’s life. They were willing to play in a game that brought them down to the boys level. The boys, on the other hand, were really proud to have played in the game and were full of admiration for the parents for giving it a go. This moment in time, will be forever etched in their memories.

Presentation from Cristina

Presentation from Cristina

Following the game, Cristina asked me to take the boys to do their customary post training thing of shooting on goal while she and the parents readied a gift for me from the Parents as a sign of appreciation for the past year. When they were ready, Hank as team Captain presented me with a card signed by all of the parents and a gift voucher for The Natural Gardener. Very thoughtful of everyone and much appreciated. They all know that I don’t do any of this for the money or for gifts. I do it out of a genuine love for the kids and knowing that I still have the ability to teach them how to play this wonderful game. The fact that working with these young minds also keeps me happy and healthy may also play a big part of it.

In retrospect, this game today is a reflection of the values that the River City Rangers places on trying to fulfill our motto of “For the Player”. We should add to that and say, “This is not only for the player but for all of the Parents that love their kids and want to spend time enjoying this game with them”. It really was a beautiful and humbling experience and I was proud to be a part of it. That is the beauty of life. It doesn’t matter how old a person may be, there is always something just around the corner that will make them happy.