Soccer is the Universal Language

My son surprisingly invited me to join him one summer evening for a training session in preparation for his upcoming college soccer preseason. We had not trained together for several years since early high school. It’s just not stylish for college athletes to be seen training with their parents. In fact, I had not even kicked a soccer ball in perhaps three years - this was a special invite that no parent should ever pass up.

After arriving at the half-sized, turf soccer field, I dusted off my routine of year’s past in setting out cones for some timed dribbling runs, foot-skill drills and beep-test sprints. We had regularly trained on this field many times when my son was nine to fourteen years-old. At times, we almost thought of it as our own personal training field. Coming back felt good.

In the meanwhile, two car loads of folks had arrived at ‘our’ field. They were wearing cleats and game kits I didn’t recognize. They looked forlornly at our cones set out all over the field. We had effectively commandeered the whole field, and they were late to the party. I shouted a friendly invite for them to come join us on the field, but they made no move.

I picked up a bunch of our cones to open up field space and waved them toward the field. They cautiously approached, but still said nothing. I said again that they could join us or use the other half the field gesturing to the far side, but they didn’t reply.

My son and I started kicking the ball around. He took some pot shots on goal which was basically open target practice at bullseye Dad. The shots repeatedly stung my hands. In self-defense, I then passed a ball out toward one of our shy new acquaintances standing along the touchline. Smile.

He started to skilfully dribble the ball, so my son instinctively moved-in to pressure him defensively. More smiles and an outlet pass to one of his friends. This forced me to have to step-in to defend against the friend.

More passes, more juking, a shot and suddenly a soccer game broke out. My son and I played two versus three or two versus four against our newfound friends. My son was the strongest player, and I was among the weaker. Being a runner was my only salvation. I had just a little bit of pace on a couple of the opponents as they were more out-of-shape than me. 

For the next eighty minutes, our little group backheeled, Cryuffed, performed give-and-go’s, nutmegged and Maradona’ed endlessly against each other. This brought smiles, thumbs up, high fives, broken ankles, laughs and fist bumps both with teammates and opponents alike. This was pick-up soccer as we hadn’t experienced in years. My teammate did emit a few groans over my occasionally weak and out-of-practice Dad-passes. Still, it was the epitome of “The Beautiful Game” for parent and child.

The only tension occurred after two perfectly executed give-and-go’s when I unselfishly passed the ball yet a third time right across the opponents’ wide-open goal. My son yelled with lament “why didn’t you slam that ball into the back of the net?” I promptly chortled back “why did you stop your run and not tap in my perfectly-weighted cross?” More chuckles all around.

The score? – perhaps something like 60 to 59 as we were playing with full size goals and no keepers. Who won? We all did – especially me getting to play soccer with my son for the first time in years. Do we know their names or where they are from? Nope, as they didn’t speak any English. However, we got to know them well enough as everyone spoke the universal language of soccer.

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John Yeigh

John is on a mission to help parents better navigate today’s complex youth-sports landscape. He is a soccer dad, coach, writer and former financial manager. You can read more about John and his book Win The Youth Sports Game at