I recently wasted a considerable amount of breath trying to convince one of my player’s, Devon Ortiz, and my former assistant, Natasha Douglas that you would have a new appreciation of Tom Brady, if you watched “The Brady 6”. Devon, perhaps out of player coach respect, paused briefly, sighed and concluded, “I still don’t like him.”. Natasha claimed that she didn’t like football that much, and when I said Brady’s story transcended football she replied, “Everybody has a story.”
I like Tom Brady. I was moved and motivated by his story. Yesterday my son, Bryson Pink, was selected to Florida’s Olympic Development Program team. Here is his story.
Bryson has a twin sister, Holland. From the womb, Holland has been a muscled bundle of ambition and energy. She climbed in and out of cribs, walked at nine months and for a time was obsessed with climbing the stairs in my first house. For several days running, she would begin her ascent getting further to the top. When she made it, I cheered. She smiled. And Bryson went to the foot of the stairs and began climbing….really slowly. He made it to the top on his first attempt.
When the kids were small, I prodded/supervised “fight time”, a loose precurser to modern MMA fighting. In the early going, Bryson struggled. Eventually, he developed a ruthless ferocity that put an end to “fight time”.
At age four, Bryson and Holland started playing soccer at the YMCA. Holland could score with either foot and appointed herself de facto assistant coach. Bryson sat in a folding chair concerned with snack time and generally inconvenienced by stepping on the pitch.
The next season showed flashes of potential. Bryson showed fearlessness in the tackle and had a capacity to run. My parents were in town and took the kids to the pool. On the way back, we didn’t have room for everyone in the car. Bryson in swim trunks and bare feet took of a ran a quarter mile back to the house with an unbroken stride.
In his third season, I deployed Bryson as a “first defender” which basically entailed my yelling his name when the other team got the ball, and him tracking it down and winning it back. One game I attempted to sub him out and he refused. A few minutes later, he scored a goal to give us a 1-0 lead. I subbed him, and in the five or so minutes he was out of the game, the other team scored an equalizer and the result held. While I was addressing the team post game, Bryson interrupted me to say, “we didn’t win cause you took me out.”. I swelled with pride and it was a damn long time before I ever took him out of a game again.
Holland quit soccer for gymnastics. Bryson remained. I had him play two years up with his brother Camden. He played the now familiar “first” defender role and earned the nickname Claude Makalele for the former Real Madrid/Chelsea holding midfielder. He simultaneously played for one of the worst teams ever assembled in his own age group.. They did not win a game and scored about as frequently as Tim Tebow got laid in college. Bryson won tackles and routinely covered more of the pitch than the rest of his teammates combined, but lacked the technical skill to score. Then one random Saturday morning in the midst of our 0-4 season, he scored a hat trick and we won. He scored consistently thereafter.
I love sports and coaching. When I am not playing or coaching, I am watching or reading. Until three years ago, Bryson played and did little else. I don’t know how it clicked or exactly when, but he began to study the game, the players, the movements and the history. I was going through a rough time, but watching his improvement and coming through the door to the words, “we goin to the field.”, carried me through. He played in a tournament at Disney that summer in sweltering conditions. It was the first time he played for Coach Richie Quilumba. They got hammered by teams for Canada and Guatemala. Bryson came home from each game and went back out to the field each night to train. He went so far as to speculate that we may have to move to Guatemala for him to “get as good as he needs to”.
I still bear the scars of having been on the losing side of two in a two on one game against a guy named Nate Morgan. He was a good high school player and could dribble with either hand and shoot. We couldn’t stop him. That loss burned in my head the need to be a complete player that can attack left or right. Bryson played a game against a team where the other coach kept saying “he can’t go left”. Early in the second half, he picked up the ball in the attacking third cutting left twice and beating three defenders before beating the keeper with his left foot. We are similar, but different. Bryson jogged back to midfield, I yelled “F u” and pumped my fist.
I don’t coach Bryson anymore. It’s bittersweet. I straddle the line between parental advisor and overbearing ass. I say things that I feel need to be said. We still “go to the field,” but it’s far less frequent and more about bonding than working hard. I am ok with it. Comforted in the knowledge that I will always be there, but in truth I lacked the technical knowledge to get him, even to where he is now. On that note, I thank Coach Richie and Ivo, and even Marvin for taking an interest in his development.
He has played “premier” level soccer for the last two years, and played every position on the field at least once. He trains in some form 5-7 days a week all year. He has become a reference point in my own coaching. The balance of attributes I want my players to embody and a measuring stick to their commitment.
He is not perfect. He needs to move more off the ball, and has lost some zest for scoring. Conditioning, communication, decision making and leadership all have much room for improvement, but today is a celebration of the hard work put in, and the promise of his future.
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