My fifteen-year-old just spent a week as a volunteer assistant in a local kids’ soccer camp. Why? He loves the sport and he needs 40 hours of community service to graduate from high school. Bingo. Match made in heaven. Further, when Gray was a little guy he’d had a fantastic week in this exact same camp himself–it’s staffed exclusively with fit-looking British soccer dudes, shipped across the ocean to move from suburban town to suburban town, spreading their Euro-jock soccer secrets.
Gray’d heard encouraging things from a pal who’d volunteered in a different soccer camp; Alex was assigned as leader to a gang of eight-year-olds who enthusiastically followed him about like a Soccer God for a full week. Gray kind of liked the idea of being a temporary deity (his little brother has never really signed up for the acolyte role) so he was rather dismayed on his first day to find himself pretty much sidelined as some kind of useless ball boy. The closest he got to the action was to be a sort-of third ref on the field.
At the end of the session, one of the British coaches said, “So, what are you in for?” Skinny, blond, tan, 5’6″ Gray said, “In for? What do you mean in for?” The 20-something coach said’ “Well you’re doing this for community service so you must be some kind of criminal, right?” (Geez–didn’t we send him there with a clean t-shirt and socks every day? How could this friendly freckled All-American kid look like a car-jacker?)
When Gray came home and told us this–that he was being kept away from the kids because he was a suspected criminal–our years of living in Europe rushed back to us. Community service just isn’t done in there in the “do it because it is good for you” sort of way. It sure as heck would not be legislated to British school kids.