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An Ode to Soccer Coaches

The end of soccer season called for a special thank you to the coaches.

re-posted from Juggling With Julia

This weekend marked the final Saturday of soccer for all three of our kids. Yahoo!!  I was thrilled, of course, since it also marks new-found freedom for the whole family, but I could not let the weekend go by without recognizing the folks that have made their soccer experiences so great.

As you may know, North Reading's youth soccer program is phenomenal -- extremely well-organized and committed to age-appropriate skill development, all the while emphasizing sportsmanship and fun. What is truly amazing, however, are the volunteer coaches -- parents like you and me -- who sacrifice much of their free time to organize and run practices, keep parents in the loop, handle uniform logistics, and, most importantly, take the helm on the sidelines every Saturday.  They are unwittingly helping to shape our kids' character (part of that Village I am always going on about) and they do it enthusiastically and with seemingly endless patience.

I watched with amazement this season as Coach Mark and Coach Eric worked with my daughter and the rest of the U6 group. At this young age, coaching soccer is like herding cats, and yet there they were, constantly shouting praise and encouragement from the sideline, calling each child by name, even on the very first day. It didn't matter that our little athletes were often tripping over their cleats, knocking over the goal, or sometimes running off the field entirely (just for a hug from mom or dad). These coaches were 100 percent in it, and entirely committed to making sure the kids enjoyed themselves.

Occasionally, they even had to do things like tie cleats.

And, they always ended the game with a team huddle, generously handing out praise for hustle and teamwork. Overheard at the huddle last weekend: "GREAT JOB TODAY, everybody! And, you were passing the ball! Who taught you how to pass? I didn't know you knew how to do that! Way to go!"

The coaches for my boys' teams were just as committed, running practices in the cold, and often times under the lights after dark. We would regularly receive email updates, even as they were traveling for work, or late at night. More than once this year, we relied on them to get one of our kids to a game while we spread ourselves out at the other two games.

Not wanting their efforts to go unappreciated, I wondered what to do to thank them. Gifts cards are popular, and much appreciated by the coaches, but this time I felt like doing something different. I thought about what they give up to do what they do, the effort it takes, and the impact it has on their lives. I am sure for those several weeks life is a bit nuts, and sometimes the kids probably drive them bananas.

Nuts...bananas...that's it! Banana-nut bread! A little home-baking to make them feel warm and happy and thoroughly appreciated seemed right, so that is what I did. Several loaves later, the whole kitchen was full of the delicious aroma of banana bread.

[Side note:  I make a LOT of banana bread, mostly because the bananas get away from us sometimes, especially in the summer, ripening way too fast before we can eat them all. And too-ripe bananas make the best banana bread! So, I just toss them in the freezer until I am ready to use them.  Freezing whole bananas does two things: 1) It turns the peel black (aesthetically unpleasing, but no biggie); 2) it seems to cause some structural breakdown at a cellular level -- once defrosted, the banana is still whole, but not solid.  I snip off the end of the banana peel with scissors, and the banana oozes out, whole but soft and slimy. My son says this reminds him of dead baby eels! Gross, I know, but too funny not to share. He still eats the bread -- he just can't watch me make it.]

Now that I've totally talked you out of making banana bread with fresh, frozen bananas...here's the recipe! This is tried-and-true and the bread is great for breakfast, as a snack, or packed in the lunchbox. While I tripled the recipe for my purposes, below is for a single loaf.

Banana Nut Bread
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book
makes 1 loaf

1 3/4 cups flour (I use 1 c. all-purpose, 3/4 c. whole wheat)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, softened (not melted)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons lowfat milk
1 cup mashed ripe banana (3-4 medium bananas)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1) Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
2) In electric mixer beat sugar and butter until light, scraping sides of bowl often.  Add eggs and milk, beating until smooth.
3) Add flour mixture and banana alternately to the bowl, beating until smooth after each addition. Fold in walnuts.
4) Turn batter into a loaf pan (approximately 8x4x2 inches) that has been lightly coated with spray oil. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to complete cooling.

Optional:  Add 1 cup mini chocolate chips when folding in nuts.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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