A few days ago I stepped out of my home preparing to go to work and was startled to find that there was a chill in the air; a genuine “go-back-in-the-house-and-get-a-jacket” chill that caught me by complete surprise. After a brief mini-debate with myself on the doorstep I opted to suppress my machismo-driven reluctance and went and got a jacket and proceeded with my commute to work. On the way I found myself incredulous that the weather should be this disagreeable and began to feel irritated that it should be so cold this early in the year. It was then I realized that it was October. The entire month of September had come and gone and sprinted off the calendar for another year without announcement or fanfare and, once again, I hadn’t noticed.
Being a college soccer coach is a little like the sensation of riding the subway in New York City or being on the Underground in London; you board at one station in the middle of August and you get off again sometime in November. Along the way you make intermittent stops to play games but once the final whistle blows in any given match you are right back into that train and off you go again. The ride is often thrilling, but as we travel on our journey our lives can sometimes appear a blur outside the windows and before we know it August has turned into October and the t-shirts and flip-flops of pre-season are replaced by sweatshirts and windbreakers.
Although the fall season may be fleeting there is still one time when the clock moves at an alarmingly slow and grinding pace and that is in the hours before game time. The three to four hours leading up to kick off seem interminable and we coaches find many unique personal ways to fill them ranging from working-out, to meditation, to listening to music or, in my personal case watching the Godfather movies (although that is a story for another day). While this pre-game anxiety, tension or excitement is generally present for all games it is never more keenly felt than prior to a big rivalry game. Last week we had two such games when we faced UConn and Harvard.
As exciting as the experience had been in Storrs, it paled in significance compared to the relative importance of our game on Saturday against our oldest and fiercest rivals from Harvard. The hours before that game are probably the longest and most taxing of the season for players, coaches, staff, fans and alumni and in the midst of our madcap season, time positively stood still! There’s a lot at stake for both schools in these games and they are often great spectacles of spirited competition where commitment and effort can sometimes overshadow the play. As expected, the game was action-packed and hard fought and was decided by a single goal. We were able to score that lone goal in the first half and held on for our first win against Harvard since 2005. There were long, agonizing moments as the clock evaporated at the end of the contest and we could finally exhale and enjoy our first league win.
So, as I write this I am back in that metaphorical subway: reflecting, planning, organizing recruit visits, watching video and on and on; life is a happy, albeit chillier, blur as the season train moves inevitably towards November. Next stop: Dartmouth on Saturday; the Godfather is already in the DVD player.