Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Birth of a Soccer Mom

When I told A. that I’d signed him up for soccer, he said, “But I can’t run as fast as the other kids.” Broke my heart. Four years old and he’s already feeling inferior. I know that feeling. I signed him up for a Kidz Love Soccer session because it’s supposed to be noncompetitive and I thought that would be a good way to start out.

Last week I was so nervous. To give some history, I was a very small kid and that equaled “unathletic” to everyone else. This was in the good ol’ sadistic days when the coach would pick two students who then took turns picking teams. I wasn’t always the last, but I was usually pretty close. I also had very bad allergies and was kept inside from March to June, so I never learned team sports. I really wanted to be a tomboy because it seemed they got all the good storylines on TV, but it was hard when I couldn’t go outside.

Anyway, I bought into the whole thing and firmly believed I sucked at sports. But really, I wished I had the confidence to join a pick-up softball game. I played intramural softball in college and I can’t tell you the courage it took for me to not fake an ankle injury and sit every game out.

I didn’t want that for A. He’s small for his age (4.8 percentile! Way to get back on the chart, buddy!). I encouraged him onto the field and told him to have fun. He’s not very daring physically, so I was afraid he’d be intimidated or worse, bullied by bigger kids. G. and I are continually amazed at our outgoing children, though. He ran out there and got in line without hesitating. He listened to a little girl tell the coach about her boo-boo, so he raised his hand and informed the coach that he had a cold. The coach expressed his sympathies appropriately. The coach has shaggy hair that hangs halfway down his face and a goatee and a certification from Kidz Love Soccer that he knows how to teach in a “nurturing” way.

These are 3-4 year-olds, so the range of attention varies greatly. A. is one of the quicker ones, so he picked up the directions quickly, which gave him some confidence. They played tail tag, where each kid sticks a jersey (what do you call those vest things players wear over their clothes to designate teams in scrimmage?) in their shorts and then run around trying to get each others’ tails. The assistant coach was careful to point out that hanging on to your tail if someone grabs it is not allowed. If someone grabs it, you let them have it.

So A. ran around, grabbed people’s tails, giggling the whole time. But here’s the part that made my eyes well up: a couple bratty girls (i.e. cheaters) hung on to their tails and wouldn’t let him take it if he grabbed it. He looked at them like, OK, whatever, and turned right around and went after someone else without taking a second glance. He didn’t cry, he didn’t fight them, he didn’t cry foul and most importantly, he didn’t give up. He just kept on going, giggling and trying other tails. God, I was proud of him.

Tonight they played tail tag again, and if I do say so myself, he was one of the most successful. Now, this group includes several kids who didn’t get the game and just stood there, so it’s not like he had a whole lot of competition. Still, I was so proud of him for getting in there and playing instead of hanging around the edge.

They also played firefighters, where they ran around kicking the ball to knock over orange cones. He did fine at that, too. He’s not the biggest or the best, but he’s right there in the middle and I can tell he’s so excited to be successful.

Tonight he came off the field at the end of the lesson, accepted a hug and my profound admiration, a sip of water, and headed back onto the completely empty field.

“Honey, where are you going?”

“I’m going to play soccer.”

“Dude, it’s over. Time to go home!”

(looking horrified) “No! It’s not!”

“Yeah, honey, it is. Ask the coach.”

So he trots over to Hippie Coach and asks, “Can I play soccer?”

Hippie Coach of course thinks he’s looking for reassurance and gives him a cheery, “Sure! You can play soccer!” I say, “No no no no…he’s asking if it’s all over….tell him you’ll see him next week”

Hippie Coach looks at me like, “Hey, I just need to get home.”

A. trots back onto the field.

“Honey, seriously. It’s over. Look around. Everyone else is going home.”

Then he gets that look…that look that means his head is about to explode. His face gets super red, tears start flowing and yep, here come the wails. He was sooo upset

Poor guy. He’s just so excited about doing something physical well. Or if not well, just not horribly. I cannot tell you how proud I am.


Lunasea said...

I'm checking comments just to make sure they're working....helllllooooooo out there...

Sarah O. said...


Sorry I haven't commented in a while. But check your stats - I visit you often enough to make some people nervous.

Again, your post brought tears to my eyes. It's so wonderful and so hard to be 4.

Beastarzmom said...

You know, I frequently had some kids stay after practice just to play around. It took a while for me to encourage these kids to bring their own soccer balls to practice (since I had to collect all the league ones) and kick it around with their parent.
Fortunately or unfortunately, that doesn't last terribly long because it really isn't as much fun playing with your mom or dad as it is with the group. But they did, and consistently a few would stay.
It's so great that he likes it and wants to play longer!

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