(The United Chronicles is a fictional account of an elite youth soccer team. Any similarity to real life people and situations in your area are almost surely coincidental, while any similarity in names is a complete accident.)
Click to read Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.
Derek walked out of the men’s room and took a seat at the bar next to Pamela. The restaurant had largely emptied out as it was well past the dinner hour. He had thought the evening was just going to be about meeting his team and training it for the first time. Instead, he had gone through a dinner with the entire set of parents and now some kind of meeting with the person who seemed to project the most daunting personality over the club.
At his previous club, Derek’s policy was to keep parents at arm’s length. He recognized that they couldn’t and shouldn’t be ignored since they were paying the bill. He also knew that the more they were involved in day-to-day team functions, the less effective a coach could be in doing his job. With most of his teams, he would have to have a short discussion with a group of parents and explain this to them, and generally speaking, it worked out alright after that.
Now though, he was at a new club, with a much richer pedigree, and he was the acting director of coaching due to Warren’s stroke. On top of all of that, there was something about Pamela.
As Pamela turned to look at Derek, she managed to appear vulnerable and threatening all at once. He was a little angry at himself for being so affected by her, but he was also enjoying it.
“Thanks so much for staying,” she said with that perfect inflection. “Some of the other parents get a little touchy if I seem to be too friendly with the coach, but I feel like it’s better to be direct and not trying to sneak around.”
"Well,” Derek replied. “It depends on what we’re sneaking around for.”
He meant it as a joke and Pamela laughed, but he found himself holding internal dialogue at this own comment, as in “Derek – what are you doing here?”
Pamela smiled and put her hand on Derek’s arm. “Well I’m sure something can be arranged.”
The feel of her soft hands on his forearm got his blood running again and he involuntarily started scanning the room to see if he recognized any of the parents lingering.
Pamela continued, lowering her voice slightly. “I want you to know how glad I am that you are here. Warren told me all about your record and I told him how much I wanted you to coach our team. My older son Hunter played at this club, too. His coach always told us how great he was doing and that he would get him a scholarship.
“Then the time comes and getting a scholarship changed to getting a spot on the college team. Now, my husband does very, very well with his business and we don’t need any help paying for college, but now Hunter is about on the verge of quitting soccer and he’s not even sure if he wants to stay in college. I know he could have been a much better player, but now it’s too late. I don’t want that to happen to Trevor, and I know you are the one to take him to the next level.”
Derek listened intently, trying to focus on being a professional. He took a breath and replied.
“Well that is what I’m here for,” he said. “But it’s important to be realistic going in. There are opportunities for boys to play at a higher level, but it’s very competitive. My promise is to take all of these players and try to teach the game and to give them the greatest opportunity. I want the best for each player, but it would be wrong to make promises I can’t keep.”
Pamela seemed perhaps a little disappointed by the answer, but Derek wasn’t sure. She still had a pleasant enough look on her face, and her lips glistened in the bar light so delightfully.
“Do you believe in free enterprise?” she asked.
Surprised by the question, Derek stammered back something in the affirmative.
“Well,” she followed. “What I want to do is to make it worth your while, in all the right ways, for you to make Trevor your own personal project, not at the expense of the team of course, but I know as a coach you can take on personal training assignments. That’s what I’d like you to consider. Of course we’ll pay you for your time. I also want you to know our home is at your disposal. We have a workout room that you can think of as your own personal gym, and our pool is a great place to unwind. My husband is gone as much as he is home and he is fine with someone like you, who would be helping us so much, being over. I can tell already you’re someone to be trusted. I hope you will help us. I need you to.”
Derek wasn’t sure if he gulped, but he felt like he had. He didn’t know how red his face was turning, but he felt like it was some kind of crimson beacon. He had provided supplemental training to players before, but in this case he felt like there were multiple strings attached. He also wasn’t sure if he liked that or not. His broken engagement from the year before changed the dynamic of all of this he knew, and he was at a loss for how to tell her no.
“I’m sure something can be arranged,” he finally said. “I’m happy to help so long as it doesn’t affect my other duties.”
“That was the right thing to say. Wasn’t it?” he asked himself mentally.
“Oh I’m so glad to hear you say that,” Pamela said. “I want you to know I would love to be your #1 friend at this club. I’ve been through all the soccer stuff with Hunter and I know this area and a lot of people. I can be a big help to you and that’s what I like to do – to help people.”
Pamela smiled softly and finished her wine, then they walked to the door. She thanked him and kissed him as she left for her SUV. It was an old friend or socially OK, Beverly Hills kind of kiss, Derek told himself very unconvincingly as he watched her walking away.
Derek walked to his car, his mind racing. As he drove to his apartment he left the window down, enjoying the cool night air rushing in. He kept telling himself he hadn’t done anything wrong, and he was determined to keep it that way, but he also knew this was going to be a little complicated. He made a note to stop by Warren’s the next day.