I’ve mentioned before that my daughter was involved with our city’s soccer program last spring. I haven’t said much about it mostly because I was involved with coaching my son’s baseball team. But I also didn’t say much because…well, there wasn’t much to say. The girls played hard, and they improved throughout the season, but they were almost always seriously outmatched. I think they tied one game and lost the rest, including their last game by an embarassingly wide margin.
But Emma persisted. She loves to play, and winning isn’t essential to her enjoyment. After taking the summer off, she was ready to get back into it again. She’s back on the same team with the same couch. At least two-thirds of the players returned. This season they’re the “old team”. Many of the other teams lost their oldest players to the next level (or competitive soccer).
They’re an entirely different team all of a sudden. I saw their second practice, and they were already showing promise. They had their first game last week, and I hardly recognized them–at least by their playing. They were aggressive. They had speed. They passed the ball. They worked as a team. And they beat their opponent 5-1.
It’s like they finally understood what their coach has been trying to get through to them all last season.
It was fun to watch, though I did feel a little sympathy for the other team. That wasourteam just a few months ago. But it was exciting to see our girls so happy. Finally getting that win tasted pretty good. It’s wonderful to see things starting to come together for them.
Nothing reinforces coaching like getting a chance to try it and see it work. It was hard for them to picture a good offence last season because they got to be on offense so little. They got really good at defense, but their offense was practically nonexistant. It was like me learning to play chess as a boy. Against my older brother and my near-master brother-in-law I mostly learned how to make losing take longer. It didn’t get better on offense until I played guys closer to my level. It appears it’s the same with soccer.
Being a writer, I also picked up on the sub-plots of the game. One of the better players went down with a knee injury early in the game and was unable to re-enter the game. She could have gone home or sulked somewhere else, but as soon as she could, she parked herself right on the sideline. As players came off the field she greeted them with encouragements, and involved herself in the half-time discussions and celebrations (they were up 2-0 then). She may not have been able to play, but she was determined to be part of the team. I was proud of her, and she wasn’t even my kid.
Though in a way she–and all the rest–have become mine in a sense. We’ve come to know most of these girls through practices and games last season, including the kids vs. parents season-ender (which reminds me, I need to get in shape for that!). I don’t know them well, but they’re my daughter’s teammates. They matter. They’re good kids. One girl is a little slow, both physically and mentally, but they treat her just like any other player, except being a little freer with their encouragement.
There’s a definite sense of “team” that I’m not sure my boys are getting from baseball. My daughter is not a girl I would describe as tough. The slightest injury at home sends her into tears. But she played most of the game on a sore ankle. I didn’t even realize until after the game when it caught up with her. She never said a word until then. Her team needed her, and she was there, doing her part.
Anyway, I’m excited for her and her team. I hope this season goes well. I hope they continue to win, though I’d like to see them challenged more than they were in the first game. I think there’s more talent to be uncovered there if they reach deep enough. But even so, what a difference a few months make.