My children are signed up for fall soccer and we can’t wait! Soccer is fun for the kids, yes, but I could argue that it might just be more fun for the spectators — especially when watching the really little guys. You know, the ones who don’t know how to play.
Last fall was my kids’ first experience with official soccer teams. Although their dad, Bill, is an excellent soccer player, I decided to wait until they wanted to play before I committed them to a team for a season.
Natalie was with a group of her classmates and, since there were eight of them and they were all turning eight years old that year, their name was The Crazy Eights. Their coach, Brooke Cox, did a great job teaching them basic skills, as well as encouraging them to be unified as a team. Natalie’s games were exciting and resembled real matches with players passing, goalies generally blocking goal attempts and actual dribbling down the field. The fact that her uniform needed to be color-coordinated with her hair-tie and socks was secondary.
Noah’s team, on the other hand, was comedy. Just pure comedy. First, their name, which they selected themselves: The T-Rexes. And because T-Rex is such a common soccer team name, there was another T-Rex team in his 5-and-under league. So when the two T-Rex teams played each other we had to differentiate by adding their jersey colors. “Go Blue T-Rexes! Go Red T-Rexes!” Or more often, “No Blue T-Rexes, your goal is the other way!” Or, “No Blue T-Rexes, come out of the stream, leave the rocks, there is a game going on!”
Yes, this is how sporting events should be. Spectators doubled over in fits of laughter as the players steal balls from their teammates or wander off the field, and where the entire game can stop when someone points out a cool cloud. And lest this get too competitive, there is no goalie — yet, somehow, the ball almost never made its way into the goal. By the end of the season (unfortunately for me) the players had learned many skills and were actually getting the hang of the sport. Sigh. I guess this upcoming season will probably be more about soccer and not watching little kids be hilarious.
Like I stated, my kids’ dad is a really good soccer player. Years ago, before we had children, he and my cousin Chad invited — or maybe that was insisted — Chad’s wife, Stephanie, and me to join them on their city soccer league team. There is a rule with the Jack-and-Jill league that there be a certain number of girls on the team and also on the field, not to mention that each time the ball is in play a female has to actually make contact with the ball. Because neither Stephanie nor I are particularly good at soccer (sorry Steph — you are better than me, though) the play generally consisted of someone kicking the ball to whichever one of us was on the field and then we would quickly return it so the real play could begin. Somehow, despite my dubious contribution, our team ended up winning the city tournament that year. Like my daughter, I was generally only concerned with the color of my T-shirt compared to my socks.
This was not my first soccer-playing experience. When I was in the second grade my older brother, Christian, talked me into playing on the Green Park soccer team. Back in the early 1980s soccer was not the popular sport it is today, so there were not enough interested girls to form their own team. So I was on a team with only one other girl, Ashley Lowry, with the rest of the team composed of boys. I was not the type of girl who was OK with this type of situation, boys being ... boys and all. So I never really got used to making any real effort. In fact, I doubt if I ever even made contact with the ball. I was more of the cloud-gazing, outfit matching, field-abandoning type of soccer player. But despite this, I did develop an appreciation for the spirit of the sport, especially the camaraderie afterward when we got to eat the treats brought by different team moms.
I’m happy my own children have the opportunity to play now. The Walla Walla Parks & Rec soccer program is huge, and each Saturday feels like a holiday because of all the people and excitement out at the Mill Creek Sports Complex.
Now I just have to wait to find out what the teams end up calling themselves this year. Noah’s idea? The Zombies.
Sara Van Donge is a Walla Walla native and mom to two small children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.