Fun and/or Games?

Spring has sprung and so has soccer…

I don’t really like to brag, but my little Colombianos are pretty great at soccer. We’ve played in our church league for several years (as you can see), and we’ve done quite well. Our church league kept things pretty lighthearted, and even though we didn’t officially keep score, our winners usually got more points than the other winners.

Now, we are in the great state of Alabama, and naturally all of the kids wanted to play soccer again this season, including our littlest who just got old enough to play.

We enrolled in AYSO, and got everyone on a team. This was easier said than done since they were still organizing teams up until the week before the first game. I would have volunteered as assistant coach or referee, but with my knee surgery coming up, I figured I would be more of a burden than a blessing in either role. Unfortunately, my oldest had his first practice and game cancelled since everything was so last minute.

With a lot of tears and regretful support of his brothers and sisters, he, Beth, and I geared up to watch and support kids in four soccer games last Saturday.

First up was my oldest daughter. She aged up, and this year, she’s on a bigger field with actual goalies. We got there, and she was super excited. Then, her coach told her that he had her earmarked as a goalie for the second half within earshot of me. I resisted every temptation to say, “A-hem… Excuse me, but she’s in my family, and we are forwards.” I was bothered because she has never played goalie in her life, and I didn’t know how she would do, but then again, none of the girls on her team have played goalie before. It was purely an arbitrary choice on his part, and I wanted her to respect her coach, so I said nothing. It’s just hard for me to watch Sea-Biscuit all fenced in.

Also, AYSO in the spring is less formal, and they are not issued uniforms. Her team was asked to wear something light blue to coordinate. We had a girl in a My-Little-Pony hoodie, another one wearing a North Carolina Tar Heel shirt, and everything in-between.

Then the other team came. Every one of the girls was in a matching soccer uniform with unique numbers (which I found out they had kept the season before when they all played together). Two were a full head taller than the biggest kid on our team. It was pretty intimidating.

As play got started, the first goal was scored before the first minute of play was done. It didn’t help that the goalie on our team for the first half didn’t know that she could use her hands. When our goalie finally figured out that it was OK to use her hands, she walked almost to midfield before she kicked the ball, precipitating a penalty kick which was taken by one of the bigger girls that could put it over the heads of everyone in our team and into the corner of the goal. My daughter also got tangled in the legs of another girl trying to steal the ball shortly into the game, and even though the referee told her that he knew she was going for the ball, he called her for tripping which I think made her play a lot more timid the rest of the game.

Another goal.

Another goal.

Another goal.

Finally, it was halftime, and my oldest girl was put between the pipes. She knew she could use her hands, but she thought she had to set the ball down if she was going to kick it back to a team-mate. At this, the other coach yells to his girls to steal the ball that’s officially in play. She took a pretty hard ball to the leg at the end of the third period, and she limped off the field. I had to hand it to her because she got back out there, but two more scores were made while she was keeper.

It was super hard to watch that game, and I was pretty upset that we played a stacked team with a final score of 9 to 0 after sitting in on the AYSO introduction meeting where they insisted that they would try to balance teams and they would work to keep scores within a 4-point differential.

Next up, my youngest daughter. Her game was like watching a bunch of excited puppies chase a chew-toy. It was adorable. All of these girls are 5 and 6 year-olds, and ALL of them were just excited to be on the field. There was little to no organization, and and I think they tied 2 to 2, but nobody even cared… kids or parents. Several times throughout the day, she said “Daddy! I’m so excited to play soccer!” That was enough to make me feel good about all the money we spent for registration and soccer shoes.

My two middle sons were up next, but they played at the same time on different fields so Beth and I had to split up. I went with my middle son, and he played well. His team won 5 to 0, and his coach purposely asked him to play defense the rest of the game after he scored two goals in the first quarter. That made me feel a lot better. Finally the win that I wanted! I was fresh off of my oldest daughter’s loss, so I was a proud of him for telling one of the kids on the other team “good job” that played very well (This wasn’t spontaneous, but I appreciated it even though it took some subtle prompting on my part).

Beth told me that our youngest son played well on his team, but the rest of his team didn’t. They subsequently got their tails handed to them.

So that was the day. A win, a draw, and two losses. We went home, and I proceeded to work in the garage as I had planned all week. When I did this, the kids came out to enjoy the beautiful day we were having and started playing in the driveway and the trampoline (or “Jumpoline” as my youngest daughter calls it – We are not correcting her because we find this term equally adorable).

As I worked, the more I thought about that first game with my oldest daughter. She is arguably my best player. She’s fast, she works hard, and she’s a team player. I don’t expect her to beat everybody, but I hated how terrible that game panned out. The little naughty Tyler was sitting on my shoulder saying stuff in my ear the whole time:

“I can work with her a little extra through the week, and make sure she understands the rules.”

“I’m sure I can go to the soccer field with just her and run some extra drills so she’s that much better.”

“I need to tell her coach that she doesn’t need to play goalie anymore. We could do a lot better if she was on offense.”

“The other team had players that were already specializing in specific positions. Maybe that’s what our team should do.”

“The other coach was such a jerk to capitalize on my daughter’s inexperience.”

“Is there a way that she could get on a better team like that who’s clearly been playing together for several seasons?”

“She’s finally to the age where things are more competitive, and if I don’t start lobbying for her, she’s not going to get those advantages. I need to sign her up for camps and drill her every night.”

With all of these nasty thoughts brewing in my head, I found my oldest girl, and sat with her for a few minutes to debrief the game.

Me – “So, how did you feel about the first game of the season?”

Her – “I had such a great time! I got to play a new position at goalie! It was really hard with a lot of rules, but I thought I did OK for my first time. I made some new friends on my team, and I almost have learned everyone’s name. Coach says we are going to learn a little more about strategy this week and where to be when we are playing. I think it’s going to be great. Did you see my sister’s game? That was so funny. She was super excited…”

No! You were supposed to be angry and upset like I was!

When we started adopting, we went to a training where they told us that we bring “our junk” into parenting sometimes. It was clear that that’s what I did. My goal was for my kid to be the best kid on the team and dominate so I could brag about it (subtly of course because I’m a Christian… Usually I lead off with “Did you see the game last week?” and just nod my head when other’s say “Yeah! Your girl was awesome.”).

Also, I get emails from AYSO that say there are tournaments that I can sign my kids up for where they would get more intense training by professional coaches and compete at a higher level. Naughty Tyler is all for it. Naughty Tyler’s goal for his kids is to be the best at soccer and eventually represent their country in the World Cup.

Unfortunately Naughty Tyler’s goal is also his junk!

I saw her attitude. I saw my kids playing together and having fun that afternoon. I saw my youngest daughter so excited to be on a team (which got named the “Blue Sparkle Unicorns” at the last team practice). The Holy Spirit (because there is no Good Tyler) reminded me that that’s why we play soccer.

I wanted to tell God, “Yeah, yeah. It doesn’t matter if we win or lose as long as we’re having fun. That’s great for the kids, but I want them to win!”

But, if we are truly being honest, out of my two daughter’s games, the one I enjoyed the most was my youngest’s. My expectation was fun. In my oldest’s, my stomach was in a knot and I went from frustration to anger (subtly of course because I’m a Christian… I’ll just pretend in my head that their coach’s head is going to explode). My expectation was for her to dominate and bring honor to the family name. Fortunately, I kept my mouth shut, but God know’s my heart… and now, so does the interwebs.

What a crappy parent am I! I’m not joking. I am a vain, proud, and envious person that did not show a “Christlike concern for all people” like the Royal Ambassador pledge tells me I need to.

Why do I ruin it for myself and come close to ruining it for my daughter? Why can’t I just enjoy the game for what it is. I know we probably all struggle with it to varying degrees. I’ve seen my kids almost kill one another over the death of a Mario or a Luigi (as you can see).

I thank God that my daughter’s voice of reason kept me from indulging my evil schemes and anger over a soccer game. I’m also thankful that in spite of my junk and the lopsided game, she had fun.

I hope she can next week (as well as the rest of them). I also hope that I can do some spiritual cleaning and get rid of some of this junk before then. They’re good kids and they deserve to have fun with an excited, happy, loving parent that’s there for them no matter the score.

At the dinnermesa,