Friday, February 16, 2001

Soccer dad reluctantly put best foot forward

By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Everyone has a story worth telling. At least, that's the theory. To test it, Tempo is throwing darts at the phone book. When a dart hits a name, a reporter dials the phone number and asks if someone in the home will be interviewed. Stories appear on Fridays.

        Mike Adams wears the resigned smile of a man who knows he's outnumbered.

        The four people he loves the most have devoted countless hours to the pursuit of a sport that he has never quite fully embraced.


        His wife, Lori, has played since she was 5. Daughters Kelsey, who is 11, and Hannah, 10, compete on separate “select” teams. Son Zach, 7, plays recreational ball.

        Soccer has become almost an all-season sport for this Fairfield family. They play outdoors in fall and spring, indoors in winter. Lori also coaches, and for a time was responsible for all three of her kids' teams.

        What this means is that for much of the year, the family's schedule includes soccer games on Saturdays, soccer games on Sundays, occasional out-of-town soccer tournaments, and of course, soccer practice on weeknights.

[photo] At Soccer World in Forest Park are Mike Adams, wife Lori (right), son Zach and daughters Kelsey and Hannah
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        Mike's role: “I'm the taxi service.” He also stands on the sidelines, watching quietly.

        “I thought maybe if he played,” Lori says, “he'd start liking it a little better.”

        So good sport that he is, Mike gave it a try. The 42-year-old telecommunications technician for Cincinnati Financial Corp. made his debut on a co-ed team at Soccer World in Forest Park one day last winter.

        “We were short players to begin with,” he says. Which meant, no substitutes. “I look up at that clock, thinking, "Wow, 20 minutes (to go). I turn around and look, and it's only at 18. I'm thinking, "This is never gonna end.' ”

        He was also thinking an oxygen tank might come in handy.

        “Then they put me at goalie, figuring, OK, we'll give him a rest.” That's when he took a ball to the head, which sent his glasses flying across the field.

        Mike doesn't play soccer anymore.

        Lori, 35, a stay-at-home mom who sidelines as a baby sitter, loves the game. But she recently suffered her second serious knee injury while playing indoors — the first was six years ago — and the upcoming surgery could end her playing career. Still, her enthusiasm for the sport hasn't waned.

        She learned from her mother, Jewell DeBord, a high school coach for nearly 10 years. Not surprisingly, Lori's brother and sister also coach soccer.

        And now that Jewell and Jack DeBord have six grandchildren playing the game, they use a spreadsheet to figure out who's playing where and which matches they can attend.

        “That family is ate up with soccer,” Mike says, grinning.

        “He acts like he doesn't like it,” Lori says, “but once he's there watching the games, he enjoys it.”


        Says Mike: “Lori and I get into a little dispute about this quite a bit. The priority she puts on soccer is a little bit different than what I think it should be.” If soccer conflicts with a family gathering, he'd ditch soccer.

        For Lori, it's not that easy. She feels a responsibility to soccer parents who want their children to be the best.

        As for her own kids, she encouraged them to play other sports. Soccer, as it turned out, is their favorite.

        And then there's Mike.

        “I'm still working on him,” Lori says. She bought him a shirt, sort of as a joke. It says: “All day I dream about soccer.”

        “I didn't think he'd wear it in public,” Lori says, “but he has a couple of times.”

        The rest of the family sees this as a hopeful sign.


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