My husband, Joel, has a knack for getting free tee shirts. They accumulate in our closet and get worn when he exercises and does yard work. They're relegated for these pastimes because there seems to be a common denominator unifying them.
Case in point, this past summer he ran our town's Firecracker 4K race, and this is the complimentary shirt he received (one that prompted our oldest daughter, Reese, to ask, "How did you see where you were running if you had to wear those hats?")
So when Joel signed up to be a coach for Reese's U6 soccer team and attended the first meeting to pick up the team's jerseys, he took one look at the table and guessed which color would be ours. Based on past experience he knew it wouldn't be anything classic like red, royal blue, or black, and nothing bright like yellow or kelly green.
That's when he saw the stack of jerseys that were not quite brown, not quite orange -- a hybrid hue that would make it impossible for other coaches to quickly call out to their players, "Heads up, red's coming down the field," because what do you call that color? Burnt sienna? Ochre?
The team's business sponsor, Tire Town, has its logo on the back of the jersey, giving Joel a perfect opportunity to spin creative slogans. (My favorite: Team Tire Town... Rolling to victory.)
Joel came home from the first practice excited. He had learned all the kid's names, had staged dribbling drills, and played some form of soccer sharks and minnows. Coach Steve, the other coach, was equally excited and had players practice throw-ins by tossing the ball at his head. In between drills the players tackled the coaches, and during drills, they ran.
Burning off some energy, Joel told me.
After a few weeks of practice, games officially began. We got beat by the red team, crushed by the royal blues, and bowled over by the yellows. Joel and Steve took turns on the field while the other remained on the sidelines with the players who sat out. The last game I attended, I watched the kids on the sidelines playing tag, being led by Coach Steve in a rousing chorus of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, and climbing onto Joel's back so that Joel always seemed to have a little boy attached to him, even if he was kneeling down and lacing up someone's cleats.
The kids were having a blast. The soccer was secondary. One boy took the coaching advice to take that ball down the field literally, picking up the ball in his hands and running full speed toward the opposing goal. One goalie watched balls go between her legs. One game our highest scorer stunned the goalkeeper with a perfect shot to the upper left corner of the goal. (The only problem was that it happened to be our own goal.)
And that was our team. Not quite orange, not quite brown, and based on their record, not quite rolling to victory.
But records are deceptive. After each game when the teams shook hands, offering "good game, good game, good game" to each opponent in passing, Joel stopped to greet the other coaches. Over the past several weeks, each opposing coach has reported that either one or a few of their players had quit over the course of the season.
We may never have won a game yet, Joel told me last week, but we've never lost a player.
This afternoon was the final game of the season, and for once, everything gelled. Team Tire Town beat the navy team 3-1, proving it's never too late to roll to victory. In fact, I think they accomplished that even before they won.