When we were kids, my father made it a point to get involved with any sports we played, especially soccer. This usually meant that he would read up extensively on the subject, and would then become either a coach or a member of some committee. At one point, he was so into the whole thing that he became a member of the ’76 Olympic committee, bringing some of the qualifying matches to Sherbrooke. However, his greatest love was teaching 10 year olds, whom he found he could easily motivate. Soccer was relatively unknown at the time, and usually only played by the sons (no daughters) of the UdS‘s European and African professors.
My father, not being the most diplomatic person, was usually rewarded for his transgressions by being assigned to coach a bunch of juvies, most of whom it was assumed would quit within a couple of weeks, leaving the richer kids to play amongst themselves a month into the season. So, at the beginning of every summer, my father would be responsible for a group of nobodies who were probably there if only to avoid the abuse they might endure at home; either that or they were “encouraged” by their parents to get out of the house. I don’t know how he did it, but pops was usually able to get these kids to play well, sorta like The Bad News Bears, and usually they would end up playing in the city finals.
The secret to his success? Simple. Whenever the team was down, my father would bribe them, telling them that he would treat them all to a chocolate-dipped ice cream at Dairy Queen if they won. For a lot of them, that’s all the inspiration they needed. Beating the rich kids helped as well.
I had completely forgotten about this, until last night. Spent a few hours walking around the Plateau, trying to find a fan to alleviate some of the hot, still air in the apartment. Needless to say, everyone was sold out. So, after supper, drenched in sweat (again!), I headed up the street to Bo-Bec for some ice scream. By now, of course, my brain is absolutely fried, and I ask the woman behind the counter for “a large softy dumped in chocolate.” It took a while for me to be understood, since I really couldn’t form a sentence but, oh, when the cone did come, it was all worth it.
Sidebar: A few years into it, my father decided to coach a senior team, most of them between 18 and 25, all living in the east end of town, which, like Montreal, meant the meanest, dirtiest, economically depressed section of the city. Most of the guys on my dad’s team were factory workers, garage workers, that sort of thing. They eventually went on to play the finals, against a team of African immigrants. Needless to say, it turned into a race riot about two thirds of the way into the game, each team’s players taking out their frustrations on the opposing players. I never want to see, again in my life, what soccer cleats can do to someone’s face.