You’ll just shut up and do as I say

by Barry Mitchell


“You’ll just shut up and do as I say,” the coach barked at me.


“Oh my Lord”, I thought to myself: “What has happened to you?”


Last week when he was just another dad at the footy there to support his son (who quite frankly wasn’t a very good player) he was very normal, very civil. Now he was barking out very direct instructions – actually more like orders; he had inherited the job since our original coach had thrown it in as he had moved away for work.


“Don’t look at me like that”


He then glared at me.


“You don’t know what its like to be a head coach; to be isolated, to have the pressure and responsibility for all of these decisions!”


I was taken aback. He had seemed so normal but now seemed crazed. It was after all the Under 12s.


“And as for your son”


He went on.


“If he doesn’t learn to bend over and pick up the ball he can get his sorry little arse to sit on the bench next to you!” “Actually get out and tell him that Bill” he then yelled at Bill, our runner.


Bill took off at a rate of knots. Well as fast as a middle-aged man 30kg overweight could go. His gut spilled out of the front of his track pants but miraculously you could also see his bum crack jiggle as he ran .Dressed in bone-coloured tracksuit pants with an orange t-shirt featuring a smattering of last night’s kebab, a black hoodie unzipped and a blues cap turned backwards… I’m not sure the kids respected him, merely because of his poor presentation.


“Look at that fat arse” the coach muttered, as Bill lumbered our to my poor unsuspecting son.


The coach turned his attention back to me “Hey can you run?”


Although it was a question, he wasn’t really asking me.


I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. I didn’t know what to say to: “Could I run?”


I asked myself.


“I’d hoped not” came the reply.


The team finished up going down and my son, well “he was bloody pathetic”, according to the coach. I was worried for my son but more worried about the following Sunday when I would take on the very important runner’s job. Bill had been dismissed and not only was he gone, his son was also told to find somewhere else to play cause he was also “bloody hopeless.”


My short preseason was about to kick in. So on the Monday night I set out to run around the block. I’d measured it in the car and had seen that it was just under two kilometres. “This will be a snack” I said proudly to myself as I strode the 80 metres of our street before turning left. My calves started to pulsate as they filled with blood. They were wondering what this strange phenomenon called running was… I took the turn on to Police Rd at speed, flicking some dirt up as a sports car would. I lost my balance slightly, but quickly regained it and just dropped the speed back a cog to what could only be described as a jog. I stuck at the jog for another hundred metres or so before my lungs started to protest. Those two packs of cigarettes that l liked to punch through daily started to make their presence felt. I coughed heavily and thought it best to stop and catch my breath. After all that, I had gone just over three hundred metres “Gee I hope it’s a small ground this week” I wheezed.


The following night, being a Tuesday, the boy rang and asked could we have a kick. He wanted to get some practice in as the coach had said he was, well, crap.


“Sorry mate. I can’t help you” I replied.


“I’ve got to work back” I lied.


Fact was I was going to run near the office after work. I had to change venues as I’d heard the neighbours laughing as I strode past their fence the night before.


The boy was devastated but “he’ll get over it.” I thought to myself.


Hey, it was every man for himself. Or in his case, every eleven-year-old boy.


After that the week went quite smoothly. I did however have the assistance of two physio sessions for a locked back and two massages on my taunt leg muscles. I was ready to go the following Sunday. I wasn’t going to embarrass myself but in fact be a great example to the kids of how hard work pays off . Most importantly the coach would not belittle and abuse me.


After a stirring address from the coach where he told the players not to be “piss weak little mummy’s boys” the boys strode on to the ground with me at the helm clapping and encouraging them.


There was actually a great vibe with the boys excitedly hollering and leaping all over the place. After a productive warm up where I admonished my son “Looks like you’ve got an icy pole stick jammed up ya; bend over Brian!” I screamed.


He took it in the spirit it was meant.


I sprinted over to the coach who was standing legs akimbo, arms folded in a power stance. He was over by the interchange gate where we would be located for the day “That was a great speech coach” I said to the coach with eyes pleading for acknowledgement.


“Don’t suck up to me boy”


He replied without looking at me.


The siren rang out to start the game and after a quick clearance we went straight down and my son kicked the goal. I was pumped. It was his first ever goal and he was overjoyed, pumping the air as his mates embraced him.


“Go and tell him that was selfish”, the coach screamed.


I couldn’t believe my ears. I looked incredulously at him and then it came to me: his son Melvin was in the goalsquare by himself but my son hadn’t seen him.


I was about to argue but knowing the possible repercussions set out to deliver the bad news. As I crossed the 50 metre line I felt a crick noise in my back; I lost all power in my legs and collapsed into a screaming heap. I let out an almighty howl as though a stubborn dog, put out for the night. I was carried off on a stretcher and as I passed the parents they politely clapped as though I had put up a good effort. We went on to lose the game by twenty goals. Oh and my son sat most of the game out on his sorry little arse, next to me.



  1. Too many echoes of truth in this, Barry.

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