Julie Lyles Carr: Are You Ready for Some Football?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Are You Ready for Some Football?

You would think we had learned.

It's that newest oldest winter/spring tradition, that mid-seasonal madness
when the freneticism of the holidays is just an air-brushed memory glossing over the promises to make the next few weeks calmer. It's a sort of sports amnesia, when you forget that the children are already involved in plenty of activities, none of them seeming to involve keeping their rooms cleaned up. It's a lotus-eating fest of forgetfulness of particular participation gone by. I give you Soccer Season.

Our first foray in to the sport was when 1 of 8 got caught up in soccer fever when several of her little buddies were signed up to play and she realized there were new shoes involved. She begged, begged, begged to be allowed to join a team. All the dreams of being a dancer were tossed aside--soccer was the new black.

I was opposed. It gets very cold, bitter cold where we were living at the time. M was deep in his quest to build a business and I knew that practices, team meetings and orange buying would be up to me. 1 of 8 persisted. It seems that soccer had been a long time dream for her. Who am I to stand in the way of a dream?

The dream was short-lived. After the practices, the purchase of shin guards, shorts, shirt, and shoes (which were a bleak disappointment for fashion-forward 1 of 8) we hit the game field. The weather had given us a tropical reprieve and it was practically balmy in the middle of February. 1 of 8 trotted out to the field with her soccer sisters. The ref blew the whistle. The game was on. 1 of 8 ran once down the field following the little pack of wildly kicking competitors, ran halfway back down the field, then began walking toward me on the sideline. The following exchange is taken from the transcript:

Me: "What are you doing? Get back in the game! Honey, you can't leave the field unless the coach calls a time-out and tells you to..."

1 of 8: (incredulously) "Mom, I'm getting sweaty!"

No Mia Hamm, 1 of 8.

You can imagine that the rest of the season was VERYYYYYYY long. The shoes were not cute, everyone had to wear the same thing (very upsetting to 1 of 8) and you sometimes got sweaty. 1 of 8 felt that she had been sold a false bill of goods on this whole European football thing. There was nothing Parisian about this. The soccer season ended with a whine.

We were able to avoid the football fields for a few years. Then M (who actually is quite a European football fan) decided that he really wanted to introduce our oldest son to the sport. 3 of 8 was quickly drafted (new shoes!) and he joined his first team. We preached the gospel of good sportmanship, "It's not about if you win or lose, it's about how you play the game", which is a really sweet and admirable quote until you lose every game. In a perfect season where our loss rate was 100% and unblemished, winning and losing became paramount. It's hard to motivate a group of kids to play their hearts out when the other team is thrilled to see them coming because they are assured of victory. M ended up coaching a couple of seasons for this group: they didn't improve. The boys made the best of it: they learned it was easier to stand around and chat with each other while the other team zipped up and down the field, scoring, scoring, scoring. They ultimately really enjoyed going to practice and games for the juice box cocktail hour.

M said he wouldn't coach again. M said that he would find other avenues to fulfill his enjoyment of soccer. M said it didn't matter if the kids played or not. M is a lotus-eating football fan.

We start up again today. 3 of 8, 4 of 8, 5 of 8, all ball-dribbling wantabes. M is coaching again. The kids are practicing on different fields at different times on different days. Saturdays are about to go from Buttermilk Pancake Big Breakfast Saturday to Scramble to the Car and Hush and Eat Your Granola Bar Saturday. M is about to undergo the philosophical challenge again of struggling with the desire to win balanced against recreation. 4 of 8 is about to find out that the shoes are not all that cute. And we will take pictures, laugh over the stories, make new friends, enjoy hot chocolate more, watch spring slowly unfold. Ah, breathe deeply: Soccer Season Begins.
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