CHARLOTTE -- When the Green Beans took the field last month for the first time since the highly publicized split between former Bachelorette star Emily Maynard and her beau JEF Holm, things immediately felt different.
"I don't know," midfielder Maddy Ross, 7, of Quail Hollow told GTOG in an exclusive interview. "Usually JEF makes me drink water. There was no water this time."
Indeed, it will be a very thirsty playoffs for the Charlotte-area girls soccer team. After JEF and Emily found their Forever during the spring season of ABC's The Bachelorette, Holm moved from his compound in Utah to live with Emily and her daughter Little Ricki, 7, the reigning Participation Award winning defender for the Green Beans, in Charlotte. And when Brooke's Dad was caught texting pictures of his genitalia to his wife's yoga instructor, a coaching opportunity on Ricki's team opened up. JEF eagerly volunteered.
"This is just like, you know, like something I just really felt, like, strongly about," Holm said in June. "Little Ricki is just, like, magic. And magic is, like, one of my favorite things. My two favorite things to watch are probably magic and Little Ricki playing soccer."
But as the Green Beans head into the playoffs this weekend without Holm coaching the defense, there is serious concern among the parents that the team can continue its recent success. "To be honest, I don't know or actually care how it will affect the team," Holly Wellington, mother of midfielder Kara, told GTOG. "It's little girls soccer for Christ's sake. But I know that JEF promised to return the jeans he borrowed from me at the game on Saturday and I have no idea whether he will show up. They were Sevens, too."
|JEF in Holly's Tory Burch blouse.|
With the inexperienced Holm coaching the defense, the Green Beans got off to a rocky start, dropping their first game 4-0 to the Pumpkins, followed by an 8-1 humiliation at the hands of the Juice Boxes. Holm was widely criticized by many parents for spending the first half-hour of every practice lecturing his defenders about why poor people need bottled water. He was even called out by Randy, the usually mild-mannered head coach of the Green Beans, who lamented, "It's difficult to coach when your assistant keeps walking onto the field in the middle of the games to show the kids dandelions."
Things turned around for Holm after the Green Beans' third game, a 3-2 loss to the Jelly Beans in the annual Bean Bowl. The Green Beans' star defender, Lilly, was called for a foul with less than a minute remaining in a tie game, leading to the winning penalty kick for the Jelly Beans. After Lilly stormed off the field screaming "I hate you! I hate you!," Holm openly questioned whether Lilly was "here for the right reasons." His willingness to call out his star player resonated with the rest of the squad in a 4-1 drubbing of the Lollipops on the 4th of July.
Climbing the Mountain
The Green Beans stayed hot after their win over the Lollipops, winning their next four games by a combined score of 16-2 despite often playing without several players who were hospitalized for over-hydration. "He's always so enthusiastic, whether it's looking at butterflies, forcing water upon the children, or making sure they're wearing sunscreen," said Kelsey's Step-Dad, Wyatt, shrugging his shoulders. "I'm not sure he knows what sport he's coaching, or even what soccer is, but the kids are always laughing at him, so what are you gonna do?"
Despite gaining the trust of most of the team, Holm still had trouble connecting with Lilly, who was stung by JEF calling her out publicly. "I think he's a poopy face," Lilly said in early August before being interrupted by her mother screaming, "Lilly! I told you! That's enough poopy talk! Do you hear me? Enough!" Holm, for his part, never stopped trying to get back into his star player's good graces. "Lilly is kind of like a diva, but I love divas, so it's, like, I don't know, you know? I mean, Mariah is a diva. Whitney was a diva. And those are two of my heroes, you know?"
Even Emily was impressed with JEF's coaching abilities before their highly publicized split. "I'm really happy about what JEF is doing for Little Ricki. I just think it's so great that they spend all day at the park together and don't need me to be here," Emily told GTOG in July shortly after she had dropped off Little Ricki and JEF four hours prior to the start of practice. Emily, who has been criticized for not attending any of Little Ricki's games this season, also had a message for her critics. "To those criticizing me for not going to Ricki's games, you don't understand. I have a full-time job: it's called being a mom," she said as she climbed into her Suburban.
Just as the Green Beans were rounding into form, however, rumors started swirling in the tabloids that JEF discovered scandalous text messages with another man on Emily's phone. Tension was palpable at Green Beans practices, where fathers tried to console Holm while simultaneously trying to discover whether JEF and Emily were in an open relationship. "I asked him if this was like a thing they were into and if maybe I could get involved," said Joe, Sandy's older brother. "I don't know, I thought it was worth asking."
A Team Without a Leader
The Green Beans enter this week's playoff game against the Hush Puppies as heavy favorites, despite both teams (and, in fact, every team in the league) having identical 0-0-11 records. "We feel that it's important to avoid having winners and losers," said league Commissioner Rod Stout. "We want our kids to come away understanding that everything in life is a tie. The Green Beans are a fantastic team. But so are the Hush Puppies. Everyone is fantastic."
Without Holm patrolling the sidelines and coordinating the disposal of all carbonated beverages, the Hush Puppies will look to exploit holes in the Green Beans' defense that have only recently been shored up. Hush Puppy forward Brittany Lomax, the league's leading scorer, should be able to use her intimidating style to slice through what she hopes is a terrified defense.
While Holm's plans for the future are murky, he knows that girls youth soccer will play a big part in his life going forward. "Since the first time I laid eyes on Ricki, gawking at her like she was a zoo animal, I've been dedicated to her. One-hundred percent devoted. I will support her in whatever she does, whether her mommy wants me there or not. If she wants to play youth soccer, I will be there for her. If she doesn't want to play youth soccer, I will play for her."
The future of the Green Beans is less certain. Coach Randy said his focus now is on getting his players prepared for the playoffs. "Whether we tie or tie isn't what matters," he said. "What's important is that the kids take the lessons JEF taught them, such as wearing androgynous pants, and forget them immediately. We've got soccer to play." Coach Randy said he has not started looking for a new defensive assistant, although the guy who hangs out at the park but doesn't have kids has expressed an interest.
Little Ricki, who declined to be interviewed for this story, released a statement through her agent. "My mom dropped me off at the field six hours ago. I really need a ride home."