Unathletic mom accepts the challenge of being her son's first coach

Who would ever have guessed that I would become the mother of a sports-minded son?

Me, the former frilly-dressed, baby-doll-playing, prissy little girl with absolutely no athletic bones in her body.

The one who was always named "most improved" in P.E., because she finally learned to hit, kick, or throw the ball by the end of the school year, and the one always picked last when choosing teams.

Not long ago, my 3-year-old begged me for a soccer ball. Although he has a gazillion toys of various sorts, including large rubber balls and small Nerf-type footballs and basketballs, I obliged.

He was very excited to get it, and needless to say, after four consecutive days of rain, he wanted to go out immediately and learn to play soccer.

Oh, boy, I thought. Where do I begin?

Thinking back to my own childhood, I did remember that the ball

was supposed to be kicked with the inside of the foot and not the tip of the toes. OK, that would be lesson No. 1. Now, I was ready.

"Little Brother" was brought to the backyard with us, was securely strapped into a booster chair, placed in a red wagon, and moved to a shady spot to watch. He would represent our bleacher of fans.

Looking up at me with his sweet, trusting blue eyes, my older son listened intently (or as intently as a 3-year-old

can) while I explained the proper way of kicking, which I followed with a live demonstration. He squealed with delight as he chased after the ball.

Then it was his turn to try. After a few misses, and then toe-kicking attempts, he finally got the hang of it. This went on for about 10 minutes, the two of us kicking the ball back and forth, with the sound of our enthusiastic "fan" in the background.

When his cheeks became bright red, and he was slightly winded, my player-in-training said it was time to stop. He wanted to ride his tricycle for a while, and away he went.

There I was - for a few fleeting moments - a sports expert. A personal coach, with all the wisdom and knowledge to accomplish the task at hand. My son didn't ask to see my resumé or question my qualifications.

I didn't need years of practical experience, or a shelf full of trophies. The only requirement was giving him my full, undivided attention. As far as he was concerned, I was the best soccer player there was - or, at least, the best in our yard.

With my son's fourth birthday fast approaching, my husband and I have been discussing what we are going to give him. Believe it or not, we seem to be in agreement on an adjustable basketball hoop and backboard.

Although his dad will probably perform the role of head coach, since he played basketball in high school, I have a feeling the assistant's job is going to fall into my lap.

Just so I don't expose my limited sports knowledge, I went out and bought a book of rules.

Now I'm really ready - I think.

Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting experiences, send an e-mail to home@csps.com.

Lorna Scherff lives with her husband and two sons in N. Tustin, Calif.

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