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.
By all accounts, everything is going great with my dog. We also welcomed her long-time shih tzu companion so we are now a family of six. Honestly, the most challenging aspect has been living up to the high level of admiration that both these dogs bestow on me.
T.Puzzle seems to be doing good healthwise so I am cautiously hopeful we can keep the dogs permanently. I constantly remind T.Puzzle that if at any point, he doesn’t fare well, that it will be okay for the dogs to relocate again. He responds by saying, “I don’t mind if I sneeze, Mom. I really like having the dogs around.” .
Since I make over my dogs in a ridiculous fashion every, single day, I said to T.Puzzle, “Do you know who I love more than my dogs?”
“Who?” he asked.
“You, of course!”
“Mom, do you know what I love the most in the world?”
“Soccer. I love it more than you. I love it so much I could play it every day!”
“Really? You love soccer more than me?”
“Yep, but Spaghettios comes in third.”
Ouch! It could have been worse though. If I hadn’t beaten out the canned noodles, I may have lost hope entirely.
T.Puzzle believes he is an extraordinary athlete. Mad Dog and I continuously crack up over how he thinks he is one of the fastest and most elite players on his soccer team (or any team for that matter). He likes to compare himself to Lionel Messi who is a professional soccer player from Argentina. Messi is often considered to be the best soccer player in the world. Confident much, T.Puzzle?
Having officially started our summer 3v3 soccer season, I had reasonable expectations despite T.Puzzle’s overconfidence. Last year our only consistent known strategy for victory was to leave Full Speed in all the time. He had to be our offense, our defense and everything in between. T.Puzzle and his other five-year old teammates had flashes of brilliance but would quickly lose focus leaving Full Speed alone in the lion’s den. This year I had a feeling T.Puzzle, with a whole year of growth and maturity under his belt, would at least contribute. Hopefully, Full Speed would get a break every now and then.
As the first game started, I started to get really, really confused. T.Puzzle showed such ferocity as he marched the ball down the field, I kept mistaking him for Full Speed. T.Puzzle wanted a goal. It was written all over his sweaty little face. He kept kicking, and kicking and kicking. He was relentless and began to score goal, after goal, after goal. By the time our third game straight was victoriously completed, he handily led our team in scoring. He even reached double digits. Who is this kid?
Lionel Messi, that’s who. Guess I better start paying attention when T.Puzzle tells me something.
Children are some of our greatest teachers. Young children especially have this wonderful ability to start each day confident in who they are. They embrace every aspect of themselves and express every emotion they feel. As we grow older, it is easy to lose this confidence. Soon, we find ourselves so worried about what the world will think of us, that we begin to filter they way we speak and the way we act. We opt for fitting in as opposed to being who we really are.
I decided enough is enough. For one day I was going to use my boys as my example and I was going to speak and act what was really in my heart. We attended a U.S. Women’s soccer game and instead of being calm and cool in the presence of these incredible athletes, I by all accounts lost it. I was so overcome with excitement by being within feet of my role models, that I screamed and yelled as if my life depended on it.
When I was a kid, there weren’t a lot of female athletes to look up to on a national level. To be given the opportunity to see in person, the women I cheered on to Olympic gold last summer was awesome. Watching women play at this level and intensity makes me feel like anything is possible. Gender, age, you name it, nothing should hold us back. If Abby Wambach, my favorite player, can be only six goals shy of breaking Mia Hamm’s all-time record, what can I do with my day? What can I do with my life?
I cannot tell you how great it felt to express every ounce of emotion and joy I was feeling. Trust me, kids have got this stuff figured out. There is something magical about feeling something and expressing it the exact instant you feel it with no holds barred.
For today, allow yourself to be inspired by something. Let go, be yourself and trust me, all your goals will seem within reach.