Spectators get a real kick out of kids’ soccer games

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Soccer. Yes I am once again writing about soccer. This is not because of any particular opinion about the sport. I actually don’t really understand the rules of soccer other than: Run to the goal! Kick the ball in the goal! Guard the goal! Nonetheless, I really enjoy soccer games. All sporting events in fact. I love watching people, talking to other spectators, being outside, knowing my kids are having good, healthy fun. Oh, and the game. Yes, the game is pretty entertaining too.

My kids have started their second year playing soccer for Walla Walla Parks and Recreation, and I have been rewarded with new and exciting entertainment. Sure, watching Daniel, Jenna, Cole, Emerson and other really talented players is kinda fun. But I enjoy the ridiculous even more.

The younger siblings running out onto the field during play, the players who exuberantly make goals for the other team or steal the ball from teammates, the kids on the bench who accidentally kick the ball back in when it is out of bounds — this is what makes kids’ soccer so fun. And this year, it is the team names that are really entertaining.

My son practiced his lobbying skills by showing up at the second practice and convincing each teammate individually that the name Green Lightning Bolts should be their team moniker. His powers of persuasion were rewarded when their coach, Tim Parker, asked what their name should be. And, lo! they all shouted together: “Green Lightning Bolts!”

My daughter’s team is Zebralicious. Their coach, Jeff Schulke, surprised us with matching zebra socks and headbands. Now THIS is what makes team sports worthwhile — cute uniforms! I look forward to seeing the kids play the Blue Tornados, the Super Sheep, the Black Panthers (hee hee!), the Purple Dragons, the Silver Stars or any of the Ninja or T-Rex teams.

I remember fondly my little brother Daniel’s team names from when he played select city soccer: the Firebolts, and the next year, the Thrashers. Incidentally, the year they were Thrashers they made it to a large tournament. The organizers designed a T-shirt for all the participating teams, but had inadvertently misprinted the Thrashers as the Thrushes. Apparently the boys didn’t appreciate being compared to sweet little birds. Not one purchased a shirt.

As spectators, we have fun cheering for our kids. The coaches wear shirts that wisely advise, “They play. I coach. You cheer.” I probably don’t want to know why this admonishment is necessary, but cheering is a great way to enjoy the game. Maybe some parents are more invested in their kids’ soccer-playing abilities than I am. Parents who actually know how to play soccer. I’ll stick to not really understanding, and cheering for any movement.

We particularly enjoyed playing at a recent game when we realized our team was playing the Yellow Thunder. Throughout the game we had a lot of fun hollering, “Go Lightning!” “Go Thunder!” It was hard to hear us over the adjacent game, where the parents were yelling, “Go Green Ninjas!” “Go Blue Ninjas!” I’m not really sure who won. They weren’t either. With no goalie, the score gets really high. After eight or so goals for each side, what does it matter? We were all having a good time.

Sara Van Donge is a Walla Walla native, middle school dual language teacher and mom to two children. She can be reached at saravandonge@gmail.com.

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