For Wacky Wednesday, Sam and Ben painted their hair and entire faces their teams’ colors. Sabre had a towering, slightly shaky chignon entwined with bangles and spikes. David wore a fruit-covered straw hat with a hole on top, from which emerged a giant tuft of hair gelled with Elmer’s Glue.
For British Soccer Camp, occurring pre-season, good-humored and blithe young British coaches, whom the children adore, tour communities teaching weeklong courses. The theme is a World Cup, for which students earn points in many ways, some of which are even soccer.
Now BSC, for me, also means helping one’s child, on summer evenings, with untold hours of homework on soccer and geography. Some kind families, in a gesture of international friendship, also host coaches, gaining a valuable chance to clean up after extra people.
Each children’s team is assigned a country and color, with points for wearing colors, finding “facts,” and concocting “energy drinks” for the coaches. The coaches sip them and make pleased or horrified faces, or subtract points per “personal preference,” i.e., as Teddy, our sixth grader, told me in purely reportorial tones, “Coach Craig doesn’t like bananas.” One year we brought the coaches baked goods.
The teams are supposedly five-person, but one boy in Teddy’s group injured his ankle and had to drop out, while one mellow little girl didn’t come some days, and didn’t care about wearing any green shirt when she did. Teddy, an ardent World Cup aspirant, wore a holey olive tee daily.
His sparse Team Australia was supposedly helped by Coach Ed standing in, but, Teddy moaned, “He just does ball tricks.”
The first year that Teddy went, as a second grader, his initial assignment was drawing a map of the United Kingdom. I showed him an atlas, he did most of the rest; great. On the second day, however, he was told to find out who had won the real World Cup two years before. A nearby team, I noticed, was simply asked where the Congo was.
We had no home Internet and both us parents, serially, took Teddy to the office and through the search, as he couldn’t read the links. First Mike spent half an hour; then I did, Teddy now daydreaming.
The next day’s question was who was the greatest soccer player ever to come out of a certain town. What?! Hesitant to bring a child to work again, I searched alone. I phoned a British friend. The answer turned out to be the coach himself, actually a pretty funny trick, if I hadn’t spent an hour looking.
This year I showed Roy, our third grader, how to use the Internet and find Brazil’s population, president and soccer clubs. I waited as Roy, stiff hands held high above the keyboard, tapped one letter at a time. He had no idea where any of the keys were, or even in which rows.
The coaches also directed fanciful drills. “Run like Forrest Gump,” Coach Steve said, knock-kneed. “Imagine a giant wave,” Coach Craig said during Pilates exercises, then poured a water bottle on Sabre.
For the last day, the kids were asked to make maps, with points awarded for the biggest. “Half the size of the goal,” Coach Ed suggested. We purchased foam boards and fat felt-tips that stunk up the whole house. Mike helped Roy with Brazil, while I filled in blue with Teddy.
In the morning, Teddy’s teammate Elizabeth brought a map the size of a whole goal. She had started it two nights before, Teddy reported respectfully, and used three cans of spray paint. Aided, too, by another boy, who had worn green and shone in his facts, Australia placed third.
Coach Craig told the winners, “You’re too young for champagne,” and sprayed them with Sprite.
My kids like British Soccer Camp. I like British Soccer Camp. I just wish they’d ask us where the Congo is.
Alison Osius lives in Carbondale.
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