Welcome to my world.
I first had that inkling that I was no longer in my prime when I was in Japan back in 1990-1993... and I watched the junior high school kids play with such aplomb in soccer that I realize that as good as I was, I was never as good as they were.
Because I had played a lot of different sports as a kid growing up in Canada... and heck, 40 years ago every kid would go out with friends and play basketball, football, baseball, road hockey, soccer... whatever... (as opposed to now when most just sit on their butt playing PS4 games against each other from the comfort of their own homes)...
... anyhow, the Japanese called me (in their introductions to large gatherings) a "sportsuman"... spelling intentional.
I played soccer, coached it even... did judo... loved to play baseball with friends... but aside from those first two sports, every other sport was done with friends just hacking around.
Still... soccer... I was good at.... the thing is... I was 26 years old (almost) when I arrived in Japan, and hadn't played a competitive game in eight years...
It was like I wanted to be the same old sports aggressive AJ (which is what everyone called me because they couldn't figure out if I was Andrew Joseph or Joseph Andrew or Joseph Andrews of Andrew Josephs), but my body was no longer letting me do the things I used to do instinctively and with ease.
I tried to slide tackle a 14-year-old Japanese soccer player, and missed so badly that it looked like I was trying to kick him. I always played on the edge... borderline dirty was how my dad described my play... as each slide tackle (I spent most of my game on the ground) was meant to hit the ball first (legal) and then if the other player fell... no big deal... that's what a slide tackle could do...
But no... I had a bunch of 12- to 15-year-olds buzzing past me... that never happened before. I once had an entire SEASON where no one was able to get by me... at least not on their feet... an entire season... they had tried early on, and then gave up and went down the other side... so the coaches would put me in the middle so I could go both ways... but they still tried to keep it as far away from me as possible because they knew I was going to either strip them of the ball or slide tackle the heck out of the ball carrier causing them to go flying.
I wasn't dirty... just borderline dirty. I never wanted anyone to get hurt, and always apologized once the play was in a lull, or helped the other player up... which garnered me some respect...
But man... it sure sucks when you realize you no longer possess the same skills you once had.
Do as I say, not as I do.
When my son Hudson was eight, I taught him how to slide tackle.
Did you know you aren't allowed to slide tackle when you are eight?
Not anymore... and this was the very same league I had played in... albeit under a different name...
Hudson decided to use his newfound slide tackling skills as a baseball player the next year (sliding into 2nd, 3rd and home with the exact same hook slide)... much to his mother's chagrin, as he wore out pair after pair of baseball pants with holes and red clay discolorations that never came out.
Four years in now... this year... I'm coaching him in baseball... a game I never played formally (in an organized league)... and while I have been watching baseball for all but six years of my life, and have taken coaching courses, and watched him do clinics... I now realize that my 11-year-old son throws harder and more accurately than I do... and I wonder how the heck I am supposed to teach kids to do something when at least one of them does it better than myself?
Do as I say, not as I do.
I guess it's going to be that way for the rest of my life now.
Kindda sucks... but I should have known the jig was up while I was in Japan.
But maybe I fooled myself... in a school judo club, I was invited to participate... whatever I had learned 12 years earlier came flooding back to me... along with the competitive juices... a kid tried to push me while we were locked up... I pushed him back, and he instinctively pushed forward, which was when I pulled him onto of me as I rolled on my back with my feet in his stomach and threw him back into a wall via a perfectly executed stomach throw.
Apparently in the Japanese sports clubs you are not supposed to hurt the kids.
I've always been an all or nothing guy when it comes to sports... check that... and all guy... so doing stuff half-assed never made much sense to me. It's sports... you play to win.
Nowadays, as a former soccer coach, and current hockey and baseball coach, I bark out encouragement...
.. but mostly I try to teach them to not waste their skills by not giving 100%... because all too soon, you won't be able to play the games you love.
And that's the real sad part about getting older.
But... I also thought I would be really down when I realized my kid had surpassed me in sports... but strangely - and perhaps maturely - I'm proud.
I guess I did my job.
Sadly there is no "Next" for me in sports. Maybe just help him get even better to reach his potential.
PS: Yeah, I know I was all over the place with this blog... but I always (ALWAYS) write straight from the heart without going back to rewrite things.
PPS: Today's title is from the Harry Chapin song in 1974 , or Ugly Kid Joe from 1992... the latter I first heard in Japan after I bought the CD there. Do not listen to either version if you are feeling even a little bit down or nostalgic about your kids. Don't do it. I mean it.
PPPS: To be fair, I spend more time with my kid than most parents do, what with all the sports I have coached him in and all the other stuff we do, so I don't feel that the song is a reflection on me in that way.
PPPPS: The image at the top is a whimsical piece of art I love by Catherine G McElroy. See it here at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/cats-cradle-catherine-g-mcelroy.html