This spring, Jon is coaching a 5th and 6th grade lacrosse team in Lake Forest, IL. This is the fifth in a series of posts about his season with the Jr. Scouts
My grandmother had a word she used when she was feeling a bit off, not quite herself. Not physically sick per se, more a clairvoyant state of mind. When the ambience in the room was not atmospherically pleasing to the senses, she felt it and became slightly tense, unbalanced.
“I’m starting to feel it,” grandma Katherine would say. “A case of the collywobbles.”
I never really understood what the word ‘collywobble’ meant—all grandparents have ancient nouns and verbs passed down from their elders that are both funny and mysterious—until I got older and found myself in similar circumstances.
We had a bout of the collywobbles on a recent Saturday (May 20).
It was cold, rainy and very early. 9 a.m. game. Scarcely enough time for a Starbucks run (drive thru only). We were down a few guys. We had a referee who looked like a love child of Woody Hayes, the old Ohio State football coach, and Eleanor Roosevelt, the former first lady. I think he may have played lacrosse at Syracuse with football legend Jim Brown (fact checking this one…will report back). From the start, he called the game with a heft and preponderance I was unaware existed in the glorious game of lacrosse.
There were plenty of excuses to be had. From us coaches, from our players.
Then the jabbering started.
I was standing on the sideline when Kirby, one of our midfielders, had this dialogue directed towards him from an opposing player:
“Do you want to go! I’ll fight you right now! Right now!” said the player from the Penguins, a team from Palatine.
Kirby smartly walked away and did not respond to the chivalrous request.
During a time out between the third and fourth quarters, the morning rain showers now transformed to sleet, the Penguins coach approached Charlie, our head coach, and I.
“My guys are saying your guys are cussing at them,” the coach said.
Hmmm. What’s a tactful response to said accusation?
To be fair, we had built rapport with the Penguins coach during the game. We bonded over the shared misery of the day’s weather and the equally peculiar officiating calls (bizarre on both sides). He seemed like a good dude just trying to coach his guys. Just like us.
But Charlie and I know our guys. They don’t just go around cussing at other kids for the heck of it.
Now if provoked…
“I don’t know about that,” I said to the coach about the cussing. “I do know one of your kids just challenged one of ours to a fight.”
“That’s because he’s been talking to him all game,” their coach said.
I had to stifle a laugh at the sheer absurdity of the situation.
Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks back to you. Nah, nah, na, nah, nah.
But can you see what’s happening here? What could happen?
Kids acting like kids (normal), adults acting like school yard lawyers (normal but…). These are situations that can quickly spiral out of control, a dress rehearsal for a viral video hashtag:
Awkward silence is broken.
“We’ll talk to our guys,” the Penguins coach finally said. “Will you just talk to yours?”
Admittedly, the conversation was brief. Charlie and I asked a few of the boys what was going on out there and they collective said, “they cuss a lot.”
“Walk away and don’t talk to them. Just finish the game,” Charlie and I said, believing the best response to screwball behavior is through actions on the field. Play hard and simply beat them.
We did, winning 4-2.
This group likes close games. As a coach, we’ll take competitiveness over just about any other quality and this team is collectively tougher than most teams we play. They don’t get rattled when things start to go sideways. I don’t know if that trait has anything to do with us coaches. We just create the environment and let them play. Boy do they like to play. And win.
Everyone shook hands after the game (hugged it out with the Penguins coaches, in fact) as good sportsmen do. We raced to leave the field as the rains washed away the rest of the games that day.
If Grandma Katherine were still alive and I told her the story of our day, she would have laughed and probably had this to say:
“You see what I mean, son? The collywobbles will sneak up on you.”
HUMOROUS (I THINK?) EXCHANGE OF THE WEEK
“Nice Target sunglasses,” Rocco said.
“I did get these shades from Target,” I reply. “Keen observation on your part.”
“Do you have any others?” Rocco said.
“I have some Ray Bans in my car,” I said, my cool status with the boys suddenly elevated.
“Did you buy those at Target?” Potato said, now joining the dialogue.
“I did,” I said. My cool status suddenly diminished.
“Why don’t you just by sunglasses at the Sunglass Hut?” Potato said.
“Because I have to pay for them,” I said.