If you are ever in need of slowing down time, I have a dandy trick that works like a charm. Simply watch your youngest child play goalie during a soccer play-off game. Really, any old soccer game will do, the play-off part only makes it that much more excruciating to witness. Trust me, you will marvel at the way time nearly halts as the minutes tick away until halftime.
It had been one of those seasons for T.Puzzle. You know, the character building kind. The kind where losing by a large margin was commonplace and mettle was tested. It was a tough season to watch sometimes, but I loved that T.Puzzle never gave up. He showed up for every game and practice with a good attitude and shook off the losses with ease. When it came time for their single-elimination play-off game, he didn’t have a lot of confidence they would win (no one did), but he played his heart out. They were matched against a team that had handily beat them 7-1 a few days prior. So, what did coach do to shut them down? He put my babyin at goalie. I mean can you imagine? Unfortunately, I understood. T.Puzzle isn’t a perfect goalie but he will give it his all for however long you need him. He goes where the coach tells him without complaint. I love that about him. As the first quarter unfolded, we miraculously took the lead. As spectators we savored those few minutes in which we were actually winning and grateful for such a competitive quarter of play. Eventually, the other team tied us and as the first water-break was called to order, the score remained 1-1.
Full Speed, always on fire with the sideline analysis, broke down the stats. Essentially, our opponents dominated in every possible statistic: shots on goal, possession, passing completion. You name it, they owned it. However, after further scrutiny, there were two critical areas that no matter what the other team did, they could not touch us. First of all, we had the most players wearing headbands. Ok, so it was only T.Puzzle but it’s a necessity to keep sweat from blurring his rec-specs’ field of vision. Secondly, whenever T.Puzzle was back in goal, we dominated on the goalie with the best dimples. T.Puzzle’s dimples are extraordinary. Take that other team!
As you can probably guess, no matter where T.Puzzle played or how hard his team tried, victory remained elusive.
Win, lose or draw I’ll always be there on the sidelines.
I hate to admit it, but sometimes, I am a reluctant soccer mom. I used to be more gung-ho when my boys were small. Since I still choose to keep them in a relatively low-key rec league, I am required to be at the fields for all their practices. Even though my boys are close in age, often their birth dates do not align and they end up on different teams. This means that they can have different practice nights. This means that I am at the soccer fields almost every night of the week not including games. Hence, this is where some of my reluctance creeps in.
This current season has started. Full Speed was asked along with a few other members of his U12 team to help fill out the roster of his coach’s U14 team. I left it up to him and he seemed excited to help out. While the coach was confident he could hold his own skill-wise, I voiced my concern about his size. Full Speed is a lot of things, but being tall for his age is not one of them. He’s kind of skinny, too. I, of course, think he is the perfect size and height to be who he is, but I also am not delusional. How was he going to stack up against U14 size-wise? The coach assured me he would be fine and given there is no slide tackling in this particular league, I believed her. Maybe it was the heat.
Full Speed had his first U12 game and even though it was in the morning, it was intensely hot and humid. His team lost quite miserably but he genuinely had fun with his teammates (they are a great group) and had two assists. He was happy but very tired after the game. We took him home to rest up and cool down for the next game which would be against a U14 team.
We returned to the fields well before the opposition arrived. During warm-ups, I could see Full Speed’s opponents approaching the field. From faraway they looked slightly bigger than average. Upon their arrival to the field, they were GIGANTIC. I’m talking full-grown adult-sized. I’m talking maybe some should consider playing college football big. Their goalie was pushing 6’0 and nearing 200 lbs. Full Speed barely cleared most of their waists. Yikes.
It was pretty obvious early on, given our diminutive size and the use of several U12 players, we were going to get creamed. But that’s part of it. That’s life. Sometimes you are going to take a beating and it’s up to you how you handle it. I thought Full Speed’s team handled it quite well. Nearly all of them kept trying and didn’t give up. It wasn’t fun to watch by any means, but I was proud of them.
It’s possible because this was the second and much worse beat-down I was witnessing Full Speed endure that day in 100+ heat, but the opposition’s goalie was becoming problematic for me. In what I believe to be a show of complete disrespect, he stopped playing in the goal. He wandered around the field, often pushing all the way up to midfield. Granted, we maybe only had a handful of shots taken on goal, but his disregard for Full Speed’s trying-so-hard team was difficult to take. From the goalie’s perspective, I’m sure he was bored by the tiny team taking tiny shots. From a mom-nearing-heatstroke’s perspective, I wanted a goal for Full Speed’s team so bad I could taste it. The open net taunted me. I started to formulate a plan. If we didn’t score soon, I was going to run on the field and take it to the house myself. What’s the worse that could happen? I’m banned from the game? I’d have to go to my air-conditioned car until it was over? Soooo tempting. Or worse (better?) yet, I’d be banned from the fields for life? No more fire ants to contend with or sweating until I’m pushed to delrium (I’d obviously passed this brink if I was plotting to score a goal).
I was so hot and I was so frustrated and watching that goalie walk nonchalantly around the field was too too much. Little Full Speed was up at striker and I have never wanted him to score a goal as much I wanted it in that moment. Finally, he managed to outmaneuver their defense. When I asked Full Speed later what is was like going up against defenders twice his size he said his focus was ‘to not get run over or get kicked in the face.’ He had succeeded at both and finally had the ball in his possession. He broke for that wide open net. The goalie attempted to race back to meet him. He got there in time to block Full Speed’s strike. The goalie anticipated a high kick, Full Speed went small and chipped a low shot right at the goalie. Since the goalie went high, the ball bounced underneath him and INTO THE GOAL!
I cheered like we won the World Cup.
It was amazing.
Full Speed managed another goal a few minutes later. This time, as the goalie back-pedaled to the goal, he tripped on his own feet and Full Speed’s teammate kicked the ball at him. The ball ricocheted off the goalie and set up Full Speed in a perfect assist for a goal. It was pretty sweet. Another goal came later on a penalty kick by Full Speed’s teammate.
Yes, Full Speed’s team lost 17(?) (I honestly lost track after double digits) to 3, but those were three of the most glorious goals in the history of soccer.
This soccer season has not reached the level of success that Mad Dog’s and Full Speed’s first season did. I’m being kind here.
I know, I know, it’s not suppose to be about the winning. It’s suppose to be about the learning and the teamwork, right?
Who are we kidding? It’s about the winning.
Sometimes it physically pains me to watch my boys go down in the flames of defeat. It pains me even more when Mad Dog is in a less than cheerful mood for several hours following another heart wrenching loss.
There are some positives. I will never tire of watching Full Speed never tire of running the field during games. His new nickname is ‘Coast to Coast’ because the kid never backs down and will be wherever the ball is at any given moment. It is a sight to behold.
Watching T.Puzzle evolve from the first game has been humorous and heartwarming. The first several games he sort of ran near the ball but he didn’t like to actually come into contact with it. Now, he’s mastered some legitimate blocks as goalie and on more than one occasion got a foot on the ball while in play. These were proud moments for me.