It’s been a rough soccer season. At the 8th grade level, there aren’t very many teams in the regular league anymore. The kids have either stepped up to play select, or they have set soccer aside and have turned to something that they can major in. Soccer is not my son’s first choice. He LOVES basketball, but his father pushed him into another season of soccer because, well, for us it’s social. It’s fun to get together with all of the parents of his teammates once a week at a game and either swelter or freeze. We talk about all things that encompass the lives of our 13-year-boys.
This season has brought more games with a finish in the L column. It seems we play the same teams over and over and the boys play hard but wins have been rare. That’s why we were excited to play in the Kohl’s cup tournament. After a similar season last year, the boys broke out and won this tournament. They were excited to have a chance to do the same thing this year. The difference is the competition. Somehow it’s more of an even match than the league they play in.
The weather for this tournament quickly turned rough. Cold, windy, rainy. And the parents of “The Boy” had busy days that didn’t make it easy to get to soccer. He brushed us onto our other schedules and caught a ride with a friend for the Saturday games. Two games ended in a win and a tie. I got a text from our soccer player that night. He said he was sad. He had rolled his ankle and it hurt badly. To top it off, if they made it into the finals, the game would make him late to basketball tryouts. At the very least, he would be tired and injured. His passion is basketball. The decision was – do I give up on my soccer team to give myself a better chance in basketball?
Basketball is no easy thing at his level. It seems to be just the opposite of what’s happened with soccer. Last year 40 boys tried out for basketball and they got slotted on four different teams after two rigorous “no parents allowed” tryouts. The past two years he’s made the B team, knowing that – on his best days – he can play with the A team.
The weekend before, he had gathered every cent of his allowance and birthday money and conned me into a pair of really sweet basketball shoes that he wanted in time for tryouts. Compare that to soccer season where he wore cleats a little too small all season, just so he could save some “mom equity” for nice basketball shoes.
We had a tough discussion about the right thing to do. His team needed him at goalie. Our family rule is that if you start a season, you finish it – and you have to keep that in mind when you’re signing up. That means all games, all practices, no excuses.
Eight-thirty Sunday morning was the next game. It was in the 40s and raining. I wasn’t back from family weekend at college in Kansas, but The Boy’s dad got to the game. They won. They made it to the finals and back to play the team they had tied Saturday. I told my daughter good-bye at college and raced back. I bundled up.
It was raining sideways. The Boy sat on the bench or played offense in the first half. It was 1-1 at halftime. He put on his yellow goalie jersey. He’s not the best player on the team, but he’s the go-to goalie. He plays strategically.
It had stopped raining, but the wind was still there, against us. A strange ball came his way with almost no one around on his side of the field. It looked like a ball he’d easily get and he was ready. I don’t know if it was the wet or the cold but it made a weird high bounce right in front of him…then over his head and into the net. Embarrassment. Shame. Defeat. He turned to the net and hung his head. A moment of drama. (His sister tells him that he needs to go out for the plays in high school, because he’ll be good at that.) Then he laid face down on the ground and I thought “Oh no! Too MUCH drama. Stop!” Turns out he was just retrieving the ball from way at the back of the net.
The game ended 2-1 and he was the goat. No one treated him that way, because the boys are a team and the coaches are great. But I’m sure he felt that defeat and now it was time to race off to basketball tryouts. He ran to the car quickly to change clothes. I caught up with my husband as we walked back. “Please don’t give him the speech. He already knows everything you’re going to say – and his mind needs to bounce back for basketball tryouts.”
And it did. It bounced. Just like that crazy ball. No negative words. Just business. The next challenge. He put on his ankle brace and jumped out of the car and moved forward, with resilience.