One of our sports schedules has ended for the season. Actually, it’s my daughter’s soccer schedule, but I refer to it as “ours” because my involvement wasn’t limited to fixing on-the-run meals and cheering from the sidelines.
I helped “coach” – a word that, try as a may, I just can’t use without a bit of a chuckle when referring to a team of seven and eight year olds, and the many other entertaining diversions that a game of soccer at that age provides.
Our family’s soccer involvement began when our son Nick, now 11, played in the 4-6 year old soccer league. He wore his grey team shirt with immense pride as he buzzed around the field chasing the ball.
Soccer at that age was (and, for the most part, continues to be) a positive experience. I was thrilled, as we became familiar with the “soccer culture” in our area, that most parents in our league cheered for and encouraged players on both teams, not only their own child’s team.
These parents were also kind and gentle when encouraging their distracted children back onto the field and away from the dirt piles, daisies and anything else that caught their attention and kept them from participating in the game.
Each year, Nick’s teams played less like a swarm of bees, and now, his team of 11 and 12-year-olds resembles a finely tuned machine, programmed to play hard with increased skill levels and interest in the game.
Elena’s team of seven and eight-year-olds is somewhere in the middle of that minor sports spectrum.
Most players clearly enjoyed the game and would consistently play as hard as they could, even when that meant running in 30 degree heat. During these games, I could barely stand upright and lift my water bottle, but our players, who returned from their shifts red faced, breathless and dripping, were almost always eager to return to the field.
When taking a break from the game, they could generally keep themselves busy on the sidelines until their next shift. My suggestions that they rest and sip water were often ignored, as many preferred instead to pour water bottles over themselves and each other.
Ongoing attempts to stand on practice-soccer balls almost always resulted in falls (it is a ball, after all) onto unsuspecting players who WERE quietly sitting and sipping their water. When not being stood on, these balls were kicked around, supposedly for “practice”, but were inevitably diverted into neighbouring games.
There were distractions on the field as well that made the soccer experience more appealing for those requiring more than just the thrill of the game. Players on the field occasionally succumbed to the need to practice cartwheels, pull grass and chat with teammates as play continued.
Goalies, defense and forward players alike could not resist the seemingly magnetic pull to climb, hang from and swing on the goal posts.
Early in the season, one player was disappointed that our team was not assigned to the side of the field with all the white fluffy flowers. She gazed longingly in the direction of our opposing team’s goal… and not because she was visualizing herself on an exciting breakaway and goal on her next shift.
Many kids on our team began asking immediately upon arriving at the field which parent had snack duty. If we didn’t have an answer, the question would be repeatedly asked throughout the game until the cooler-bearing parent emerged from the crowd of spectators and walked toward the stampeding players.
I sometimes think the snack is the lure that keeps kids at that age playing soccer. In fact, I wasn’t surprised one evening when walking to our game Elena revealed that, a few years ago, the snack really was the reason she agreed to sign up for soccer.
As our kids’ soccer seasons begin to wind down, there has been talk of an old-timers pick up league in our area. My husband and I have expressed an interest to play, and not surprisingly, our kids have giddily expressed an interest to watch us play. I’m pretty sure that, as entertained as I am by watching the kids play, they will be just as entertained by watching us play. …and it’s really only fair that they get a chance to chuckle!
Before committing though, I intend to find out if snacks are included.