We had an awful lot of rain last season, so much so that the half of our field that was already squishy from an oozing sewer system became immersed in a sea of ankle-deep water. After a month of splashing and mud fights both at games and at practice we moved the field away from the sewer so that it included the entire baseball diamond at the other end. Visiting coaches would glare at the naked base paths, but the referees were on our side. They were just as glad not to have to run down the sidelines through the slime.
Our first game was at a private school about an hour's drive away. When we got to the school their coach came over and firmly gripped my hand. I met a lot of coaches during the season and I can say many of them are deadly serious. The playing rules are second nature to them and so they are able to spend time devising intricate strategies. Her players looked very professional as they ran in formation onto the field and began doing warmup drills. My legs felt weak.
"What are your feelings on substitutions?" she asked me briskly. "Well...," I said.
"How about at corners and penalty shots? Tell the ref first?"
"Fine," I said.
"And the halves. How long do you play?"
"Well...," I said.
"We've been playing 30 minutes."
"Fine," I said, looking at my watch.
She turned around and marched toward her bench. Immediately her team jogged off the field to cluster around her as she began giving them what I realized was a pep talk. I had a dreadful sinking feeling that I should have prepared something rousing to tell my team, but I knew I was incapable of producing the right vocabulary or tone. I looked around and saw my players scattered about, each warming up in her own way. Some of them were doing gentle exercises, some were thoughtfully contemplating the game to come, and still others were eating candy. Everyone looked calm, and I hoped I did, too.