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Sunday Morning Scribe: 90 Minutes of Therapy

Just great. A whole one week into the lifespan of SMS, and I'm already filing past deadline. Yes, it's Sunday evening already, and I'm just getting warmed up. Having failed miserably in last week's attempt to con persuade the Mrs. to explore her wild side by delving with me into the plasma-induced radiant joy that only 70" of HD decadence can bring, my Sunday morning was devoted instead to pursuing more adult pursuits -- i.e. completing the "To do" list that I found taped to my forehead when I woke this morning.

Yes, the grass is now cut, the deck power-washed, and the moss-green slime that was coating the basketball net is now gone -- mostly because it got transferred to my wife's socks during the 35-minute ultra-hot wash cycle I chose.

The discovery of the moldy socks jogged my memory that it was time to escape the house with son in tow for Sunday noon soccer training.

There's something vaguely cathartic about sitting in the butt-numbing wooden bleachers with the regular crowd of soccer parents each week -- particularly the dads.

Don't get me wrong, the moms are wonderful company -- always sure to inquire if Johnny has recovered well from his latest deep-tissue bruising, or to compliment any of the boys who show up with the latest ultra-neon polychromatic high-gloss cleats that look like Bozo the clown had just yakked up a bowl full of smarties on them. The moms are great -- they're always the ones with an extra tissue on hand in case someone breaks their nose -- again. And they're invaluable repositories of knowledge when it comes to remembering the dates of upcoming tournaments and payment deadlines. Without them, we soccer dads would be seriously lost. The moms are organized.

But, as I say, it's the dads that generally turn a training session into a healing process. First, there's the opportunity to pile on the misery for any poor sod whose team got throttled over the weekend. It's all good natured fun, of course -- unless the bugger in question happens to back Newcastle, in which case he's mercilessly derided for the next 90 minutes. There's nothing like easing your woes by increasing someone else's -- especially if his kid's been showing better than yours lately.

There's the additional benefit of sitting next to the guys with the latest 5G devices -- not only are the latest results from the BPL, Serie A, Bundesliga and La Liga available, but also 3-d representations of Everton's set piece effort in the 79th minute vs Villa. Great for entertainment before the catharsis can really begin.

Once training gets under way, many of the moms remain either stoic, or involve themselves in pleasant conversation, or other distractions. Most of the dads, on the other hand, sit perched like so many of Hitchcock's crows -- eyeing everything. And then a quirk of sociology takes place, or is it a quark? I was never good at sciences. In any case, most dads will openly extol the virtues in the play of their sons' teammates, while being equally critical of the slightest mistake or miscue their own son might make. More often than not, the latter are couched in amusing quips launched by dad -- or in a good-natured exchange between two or more dads who happen to be friends. In an intensely competitive backdrop, trading punchlines is preferable to trading punches.

Speaking as a dad, it's this maelstrom of hyper-critique and wry humour that brings home the fact that your own kid makes no more mistakes than any of his teammates -- and is no less deserving of an "atta boy!" on the way home after practice.

At this point I have to clear up a few things. I'm describing the atmosphere and insights surrounding selects level players in an academy setting. The boys are highly motivated, work exceptionally hard, and have devoted a great deal of time to becoming very good players. These are boys that represent their academy, respective clubs, and zones. Maybe one day much further down the road, one or two will play for province or even country.

These boys are growing up enjoying the opportunities that both nature and nurture have provided, while also slowly learning how to handle the expectations that are part and parcel of their development process. They come from families who have also invested countless hours driving to and from training sessions 3-4 times a week, and then hitting the road once again for game days. Their financial commitment, too, is considerable -- as is their emotional investment in supporting their sons both on and off the pitch.

I don't think there's a parent on the planet that doesn't share vicariously in either the joy or pain of their child's participation in sports, in this case soccer. Thanks to all the moms for all the gauze, ice, and tissues, and thanks to all the dads for the therapy.