His name was Atushi Kawasaki. I start off with his name , because I remember it and much of this story will be muddled because 18-20 years later , my brain is working at a much lower percentage. But I promise you that is this , then 9(10?) year old boys name.
Whats , so special about Atushi?…well in a game known in America(and only America) as Soccer….He was as close to a pure goal scorer as you could possibly have. You dont have to know much about this sport, only that scoring is quite a commodity….and its less common than in many other sports. At a professional level, 2 or 3 goals a game , might be considered high, by some standards.
At the time this story takes place, I am the President of The Bethpage PAL Soccer Club. But because we live in this great country, I was not a dictator, I had a Board of Directors, who were there to help keep everything smoothly and also , as you’ll see to keep me in check(or try to) which was very very rarely necessary. This story an exception.
I have to throw this in, because looking back at it now……it was quite amazing how many people were on our Board. Im going to say it was close to 15 people! there was a vice president and a treasurer and a secretary and a director of operations, and a director of referees and a person in charge of fields and a person in charge of this age group and that age group. Really , quite amusing when you look back at it, I think.
im going to get right to this story now, I will tell you that we had monthly Board meetings….usually attended by 75% of Board members and an occasional coach or guest that had business to take up with us.
Again, im sorry, and please, stay with me, I just realized a bit of how I became involved at all is necessary. my oldest son Bryan was 4 and my wife said to me one day , i signed Bryan up for soccer. I said Soccer!!! what the hell is that?!!! Baseball!!! i want him to play baseball. but no, Bryan started playing soccer, he ran the wrong way on the firld….he sat down and played in the dirt, it was all quite amusing and humiiating at the same time. After 2 years of this, i met another parent,named russ….who was going thru almost the exact same thing with his son. we went to the library Russ and i, taught ourselves about soccer and a next season we volunteered to take on a team, coaching our own kids. Bryan eventually proved he couldnt really get the hang of running with the ball or passing the ball, what he could do…..was catch the ball, and block the ball…so yes i decided Bryan was going to be a goalkeeper….and over the years , not to brag too much he became one of the best goalkeepers on Long Island.
ok so heres the deal……I was coaching Bryan, with a friend named Mitch now….we had a couple of good players, we won some , we lost some. we were doing ok!
One day, i get a phone call from a very upset Mrs Kawasaki…..Please Mr president (she didnt really call me that, I like to imagine she did) my son atushi(I never heard of him at this point) is playing on a soccer team managed by a man named frank Munnely. Coach is very nice she tells me , but all the boys on the team are a year older than Atushi, none of them are in his classes at school and he feels very uncomfortable playing with boys he doesnt know and not in his grade. Is there anything I can do. I told her, i would bring it up at the Board meeting, Coach munnely was on the board and Im sure we can figure something out. I had no idea at this point what kind of player Atushi Kawasaki was!!
So before the meeting, I make some phone calls, i call some members of the board, i call Frank Munnely, I call my friend Russ who was vice president at the time, i called some of the older veterans on the Board who had been around much longer than me, to ask their advice. it originally seemed simple to me, if Frank was ok with it, we were gonna take this 9 year old and put him on the one team that had 9 year old boys. what was the complication, you might ask? That team……..was MY team!!!! We were the only 9 year old Boys team, with the kids Atushis age and who were in all his classes and where Atushi himself was begging to go.
so the night of the board meeting comes around and at this point this was the BUZZ of Bethpage!!! Every shopkeep, every Barkeep, every parent were sitting around the dinner tables talking about the fate of Atushi Kawasaki….and would I dictate that he goes and plays for my own sons team!!!! Im not even kidding you, I am NOT exaggerating. the night of the meeting , not only did 100% of the board members show up, but Atushis parents were there, more than 30 parents were there, a bunch of coaches were there. This was going to be ONE hell Of a meeting and somehow by the end of the night, Dead or alive, this Board, or ME if it had to be that way was going to reach a decision on this 9 year olds soccer playing career. Im going to end this first part …with this cliffhanger. Its a long story and Im tired…..if Ive got your interest now….you MUST come back tomorrow for the conclusion, because you wont believe what happens next!!!!