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Learning to cope as part of a team

Submitted by on Thursday, 4 February 2010 No Comment

Big Guy came off the court Saturday with a predictable grumble: “I didn’t score a single goal. Not one stinkin’ goal. I barely got to kick the ball.”

I’d warned him about that, telling him that his new league wasn’t going to be like the last time he’d played outdoor soccer and he and one other kid had scored most of the goals.

He’s on a team now with kids as old as 8, many of them just as fast as he is and most of them better players by virtue of experience alone.

He’s also at an age now when a few more rules start to apply and the kids sort of play positions. The simple “see ball, kick ball” era is over for him. Passing and defense now are factors.

He’s also seeing the beginnings of a meritocracy, where the more advanced kids get more playing time. Though all players are guaranteed that they’ll get to play at least half the game, the 8-year-olds are more likely to see action in both halves. I don’t have a problem with that.

Given his basketball meltdown a few weeks ago, though, I knew I had to be careful about this conversation.

“Well, these players are all pretty good, aren’t they? It’s not like when you and L were oldest and the  really, really good players on the team, is it?” I reminded him.

“They sure are good,” Big Guy said. “Even the girls.” I wanted to set him straight on that, but I let it slide. At least he was admitting that girls have skills.

“You can learn to a better player, too,” I said. “You just have to keep practicing. Pay attention while you’re not playing, too. You can learn a lot from watching your teammates.”

“I can do that,” he grinned. “And maybe I’ll get a goal the next game.”

I wanted to smack the person who paid him per goal last season, but I knew the money had little to do with Big Guy’s desire to score. He lives in a society where we idolize the quarterback but can barely name the defensive line. Where we celebrate the homerun hitter but overlook the person who squibbed out a single to get on base ahead of him and score the winning run. One mom’s lectures weren’t going to change that.

And Big Guy is coming out of a soccer league where he practically could score at will. It’s what he’s used to.

If he can learn this season that not everyone is able to start at the top of the heap but that, with hard work, most people are able to improve enough to get within shouting distance of the pinnacle, I’ll be happy even if he doesn’t score a single goal. It’s a lesson that will serve him well, not just in soccer, but in life.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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