Learning to fly in just two months
They first gathered under a blazing August sun, eight kids new to soccer, plus one "experienced veteran."
That practice sank disorganization to a whole new level, as kids darted here and there, grasping many blades of grass but few concepts.
They last gathered Saturday for their end-of-season party. That’s when I realized how much I’m also going to miss these kids.
It doesn’t take long to fall in love with them when they’re this age. You can’t help but be in awe of how far little bugs can fly in two short months.
By the end of September, we didn’t have to remind them to pay attention. Suddenly, they were focused on the game, even when they were sitting on the sidelines. Each and every team member showed amazing growth -- and, at this age, that's what it should be about.
Experienced Veteran was 5 and already had a season under his belt. If he was in the game, you can bet he was leading the charge. He also was the one who always hugged Little Guy when he was upset because Mean Old Mom wouldn’t let him play. He holds the distinction of being the only kid not making a heinous face in the team picture.
Other Little Guy quickly came along. A gritty little 4-year-old, he once played an entire game because two players were missing and three were having attacks of the "I don’t wannas." And he would have eagerly played another four quarters if he could have begged his way onto another team. Next time my Little Guy sees him, though, he might punch him. Little Guy still thinks Other Little Guy took his trophy Saturday.
Smart Kid also was near the front pack most of the time. He was alone in figuring out how to pass the ball to a teammate, an amazing accomplishment for this age group. I think every parent on the sideline cheered him.
Coach’s Son was finally getting his chance, after two years on the sidelines watching his older brother. He and Big Guy wound up playing together much of the time, and, when they weren’t kicking each other’s ankles in an intramural battle for the ball, they formed a nice pair. Coach’s son can really boot the ball, while Big Guy’s forte is dribbling. If only Smart Kid could teach them passing.
Tough as Nails Kid got roughed up more than anyone, partly because she’s tiny and partly because she was determined to be in the middle of it. That’s no doubt due to growing up with two older brothers. But when she wasn’t in the game Saturday, she sat on the sidelines and sing sweetly. "It’s a Jesus song," she said. A regular Renaissance woman.
Other Coach’s Girl was the picture of hesitancy at the start of the season, staying around the goal, whether she was playing goalie or not. By October, though, her ponytail was flying down the field with everyone else, and she was diving on the grass just like the other goalies.
Uncertain Boy hung back in practice early on and cried at the first game. His mom coaxed him onto the field, though he stuck close to her. Two weeks later, that was over – he had a smile on his face from warmups to the end-of-game tunnel.
Comedienne never missed an opportunity during a break in practice or games to clown around. And there was something about her that compelled Big Guy to pick at her constantly – maybe it’s because she’s a redhead, and Big Guy has a lot of experience torturing redheads. She gave it right back. Good for her.
And, of course, Big Guy. One of the smallest and youngest players in the league, he learned the difference between running willy-nilly and running with a purpose. He didn’t score as much as Experienced Veteran, Smart Kid and Other Little Guy, but he got in his licks.
More importantly, though, he loved it. Couldn’t wait until Tuesday for practice and Saturday for games. Every moment in between was filled with "Coach Joey says …" to the point where I was ready to ask Coach Joey if he would say Big Guy had to eat vegetables. It would have worked.
Big Guy was blessed this season with great teammates who had wonderfully supportive – and not in the least overbearing – parents. He also was lucky to have a coach whose even keel and calm demeanor I admire.
As glad as I am that it’s over – it will be nice to have Saturdays back – it’s sad to realize we might never cross paths again with these wonderful families. Each and every kid, each and every mom and dad played a part in making this a fantastic introduction to (slightly) organized sports.
Copyright 2007 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.