Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Just Being a Dad - Heading into another MLS Season --- nothing to see here, you can move along

FULL DISCLOSURE:  this is very much a personal blog that reflects on many years enjoying my son play professional soccer.  This will almost certainly offer no wonderful insights into anything … and will likely be simply a cathartic essay that any dad would do when his son grows up, has child(ren), and tries to settle into his profession. So – no reason to read this or flame me … this is pretty much just a personal thing that (by intent) ends up on the Internet. 

The MLS 2016 season begins this weekend and, amazingly – improbably – surprisingly – Chris Wondolowski is prepared to enter his 12th season as an MLS player.  He is very fortunate to have played for only 3 head coaches (and by my estimation the 3 best head coaches).  He is even more fortunate to have started with Dominic Kinnear and now be back again with Dominic Kinnear (more on that later).  He is tremendously fortunate to be with his home-town franchise that has built an amazing stadium and management/ownership team that has put together what I believe is a fantastic team heading into 2016. 

So – how does a dad who devoted significant portions of his life playing, coaching, and watching soccer process the fact that his son is entering his 12th year as an MLS player?  Truth is – I can’t process it.  This is so far beyond my wildest imagination that I simply cannot get my head around it. 

Some nostalgia:  in Chris’ first year, in training camp before he ever was offered a contract, he and I would talk every day on the phone and every day I would tell him:  “work your ass off and keep your mouth shut”.  And then he got signed – he was told in an airport gate coming back home that he was going to be signed to a Developmental Contract and he called me and it still will be one of the top 20 days of my life.  That first year he worked his way up to the 18 man roster and made a road trip to Columbus – I went to watch him (think Southwest Airlines to Columbus ... that's not the most direct flight you'll ever take) – and he didn’t get into the game BUT the Quakes won.  I think either Ronald Cerritos or Alejandro Moreno got the goal (they may both claim it now)  – it made it a good trip.

I had to look at the website to actually count how many years Chris has played (isn’t that a great thing for a dad?) – and I saw that he has 23 assists in his career … and 25 yellow cards.  We all know that over 90% of those yellow cards are because he can’t keep his mouth shut on the field with the referee.  You can all blame me for that – that is what we call “modeled behavior” (unfortunately - sorry). 

To watch my son grow as a player and a man under the management of Dominic Kinnear, Frank Yallop, and Mark Watson – is probably the most rewarding thing I could ever imagine.  I believe every dad has his limitations – but when Chris is able to fill in my fatherly-limitations with mentors like Dominic Kinnear, Frank Yallop, and Mark Watson???? How great is that? Throw in all the fantastic assistant coaches (Spencer, Tim, Steve, Ian, etc) – and the USA coaches (Bob and Jurgen with their amazing assistants) … and I sit in awe and appreciation at the full life of learning that my son has enjoyed in his last 11+ years.

So we head into the 2016 season.  Chris gets to play with some of the best players he has ever played with – at every position.  But I get to watch and enjoy.  We all know that the sands are always slipping through the hourglass … but as the lower part of the hourglass is collecting the majority of the sand – it tends to make us appreciate the current season more.

Go Quakes – we are blessed with a solid 2016 team and the best stadium in the league.  I am blessed to go to the games with my beautiful wife – fantastic daughter in law, crazy/gorgeous granddaughter, her soon-to-be sister, and my other sons and daughters (and their less-crazy granddaughters)   … HOW FREAKING GREAT IS THAT???? What a dream come true.  

Final thought – by the way --- the extended Wondo Family totals about 10 season tickets for the Quakes.  I want to extend that to 20 next year.  Mrs. Wondo and I will be in the front row at BC9 section at Avaya Stadium for as long as the Quakes are playing.