Beginning next month, I will be free from the tyranny of coaches for most of the summer, or until football season begins in August.

Twenty-one months of continuous, sometimes overlapping sports has convinced me that the only difference between coaches and drill instructors is their uniforms.

They both yell all the time, are never satisfied with the player/recruit’s performance and are some of the grouchiest people on earth … at least when they are on the playing field or at the recruit depot.

Like drill instructors, I’m sure most coaches are nice guys when they are not barking orders at my sons.

The yelling begins the moment Jimmy, Tommy or Ronnie steps out of the car, after I have braved the insanity of rush-hour traffic in order to get the right son to the right practice on time.

When there is an overlap of football and soccer practice, or soccer and lacrosse practice, I must deposit a child at whichever practice begins earlier and then drive back and forth until the ridiculous fiasco is over.

I do this while everyone else in the Metropolitan D.C. area is in a hurry to get home, and the only thing between them and a warm meal is my Suburban.

Leaving our house early does not guarantee we will be at practice on time or that the boys will have their act together once we arrive. That’s when the coaches growl such greetings as, "You’re late, Zich!" or "Why aren’t you wearing your gear?"

Most people mispronounce our last name (It sounds like "Zick"), but coaches never do. And they like to say it over and over while my sons run, tackle and dribble their way through the school year.

I sit on the sidelines sweating, shivering and trying to ignore them.

The worst coach by far was Ronnie’s basketball coach last winter. He had great legs, but a major attitude problem, at least as far as I was concerned.

During Ronnie’s first game, my sweet littlest boy stumbled right in front of me and lay sprawled out on the court in misery. I ran to his side immediately.

"Sit down," the coach ordered.

"No!" I yelled back, bending down to make sure Ronnie was going to survive.

"Get off the court; I’ll take care of it," Hot Legs insisted.

"No!" I replied.

Ronnie was back on his feet and reunited with his team as we entertained the other parents with our face-off.

Usually, I maintain some level of manners when talking to coaches, but that time I had an excuse: Ron was the coach.

At least Ronnie always had a ride to practice.

I have my own way of blocking out the brutality of the insane sport that is lacrosse. Instead of sitting in the bleachers where I might actually get a close-up of Jimmy being whacked by an opponent’s stick, I volunteer to be the ball lady.

That places me as far away from the action as I can get and still claim to be watching the game.

Now that summer is almost here, I’m counting the weeks until I can kiss the insanity of sports goodbye and take a break.

When the last whistle blows, I will be the happiest football/basketball/soccer/lacrosse mom on the planet. I’m going to enjoy my free afternoons and plan weekends out of town again.

We are going to enjoy a rugbyless summer with no schedules, jock straps or grouchy coaches ... except for Ron, of course.

There will probably still be plenty of yelling and barking, but that’s just the sound of the boys, Glory and me having fun.

Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. E-mail her at or find the Zichs online

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