The Girl gently rolled the ball into the pop-up net and turned to give me the awkward squint and thumbs-up we share when she knows I’m watching her play. She ran over to me, where I was leaning over the chain link fence. “I’ve score six goals, Daddy!” “Good stuff, kiddo”, I replied, and she raced of to rejoin five other little girls on the artificial pitch.
Having warmed up, pretending to be airplanes soaring in the clouds, they huddled around their coachto come up with a team name. Everyone chimed in. The Dragons, maybe? The Lions? They all growled. Close, but not quite.
I started playing youth soccer in North Delta, BC when I was about five-years-old. I was small, slow, weak and uncoordinated. I was everything a scout could hope for in a future superstar athlete.
My illustrious career lasted nine seasons. In that time, I developed into a seriously mediocre goalkeeper — I could never reach the crossbar, even at full vertical — and a marginally-less-than-abysmal midfielder. I scored five times, grand total. (That’s more than half a goal per year, people). I was a one-time all star, when it was finally my turn in the team rotation. If there were posters of stand-out child athletes for sale in our community, mine would have been sold out.
So now she takes to the field, with the incredible weight of her father’s athletic success on her shoulders, and brings our honourable family name into the “beautiful game” for the new millennium.
Kidding aside, I’m really excited for her.
- I’m excited to let her play a sport with other kids and maybe meet some new friends, already filtered by the fact that their parents want them to be active. As new members of this community, we still have only a limited circle of kids and families we’ve met. It would be nice to expand it.
- I’m excited for her to learn about being a part of a team, working together, celebrating someone else’s success and being celebrated for her own. There’s so much to gain from learning how to “pass the ball”, whether it’s on the soccer field, at school, or in the home.
- I’m excited to watch her learn new skills, struggle with the fundamentals, and persevere. She prides herself already on doing things well, but I know it’s healthy for her to learn that there are some skills that only improve through dedication and practice.
- I’m excited to help her learn that it’s really fun to play the game with others, regardless of the weather, the stakes, or the score. At such an introductory level, I really hope to make results a secondary and distant side effect of her time on the field.
- More than anything, I’m excited to guide her to do these things much better than I ever did. (For a refresher on my struggles with competitive sports, look no further than this past article).
After a twelve-girl, fifteen-ball scrimmage racing back and forth on their little corner of the large high school soccer turf — kicking balls into the opponents’ net, their own net, and almost every square foot of the neighboring fields — the girls formed two lines and congratulated each other on a game well played. And after shaking her last opponent’s hand and giving her coach a hug, The Girl took mine and we started back to the car, cleats clicking on the parking lot pavement.
“What did you like about soccer practice?”, I asked.
“Everything,” she replied.
“And can you remember the team name you all chose?”
She paused. “The Wildcats,” she said, smiling.