Monday, September 9, 2013

and just like that I became a soccer mom...

Dear Em,
This season has been one of new beginnings for you. Last week you started school, gymnastics, & had your very first soccer game. My brothers played soccer growing up, & I've been looking forward to when you would get your chance. Since this is your first season participating in sports, we're hoping you would learn a little about working with a team & work off some of your unlimited energy. Most of all, we just want you to have fun.

We started by purchasing you the gear. Did you know that even at age three you need soccer cleats? I do now. I also realized that you don't have any casual, exercise shorts (can you play soccer a tu-tu?). We picked up a couple pairs of those & found you some shin guards, soccer socks, a couple soccer balls, & a sports bag. Luckily, I was able to purchase everything in pink. You were soccer-thrilled.

Once you had the gear, we started to go over some of the basics at home. Since Daddy & I never played soccer, the only basics we know are very, very basic. We were fortunate to have your uncle Jared with with us. He and Daddy went over some skills with you.

I helped you work on your intimidating soccer stare.

Then it came time for your very first practice with your team. I could tell you were nervous about it as soon as you woke up that morning. You were an emotional mess, with the slightest things bringing you to tears. After pulling up to the field where you would meet your team, I went to help you out of the car. Your eyes were so vulnerable & so earnest. "Mom, I really hope they like me," you said so seriously. My heart broke into a million pieces in the parking lot. "Oh, sweetheart, I'm sure they'll love you. Just try your best."

We introduced you to your coach & then joined the other parents on the sidelines. As the coach began his instruction, we watched to see what you would do. For a few moments you just stood there, watching everyone else follow the coaches instructions. "Oh no, I was worried this would happen. She's just standing there. Come on, Em," Daddy pleaded to himself with a worried and expectant look on his face. This being your very first sport or team activity, we knew it was going to take time, but we hoped you would at least participate. I felt helpless just standing on the sidelines, willing you with my mind to join the others & follow the coach.

Your coach looked back & saw you standing still. "You OK, Emma?" He walked up to you & showed you again what the rest of the team was working on. That was all it took. For the rest of the practice you did everything your coach asked you. Daddy & I were amazed at how great he was with your young team. Instead of saying, "stay in bounds," he told you outside of the cones was water & you wanted to "stay out of the water." When explaining toe touches, he said to think of your ball like it's an egg & you don't want to "smash the egg." He was great, & you were learning how to play soccer.

You were also the only girl on your team, but there still won't be any shortage of pink & frills. While you worked on your soccer skills, you also worked on your twirls & gracefully falling until one of the boys asked if you were OK. Daddy & I smiled as we shook our heads.

The coach ended practice by having you all put one hand in & shout "TEAM" (which you've been teaching all of your little friends to do since). As you ran off the field, you had a great big grin covering your face. "I love soccer," you told us, "& I really have soccer skills."

The night before your first game. We practiced one more time as a family in our yard. Daddy & I realized that you had never played with a goal before & the thought of having to kick the ball to the goal might seem confusing. We turned a chair on it's side & told you it was a goal & explained that to score in soccer, you had to kick your ball into the goal. You spent the next 30 minutes "decorating" our goal with your pink & white toys. "Tomorrow should be interesting," your Daddy remarked with a smile.

When we got to the field the next morning we got your new jersey (it was red & not pink, but you were OK with that). We had the choice between the number 3 & number 5. I felt kinda put on the spot. Numbers are funny things. The number we chose now could be your number that stuck with you for life. It was kind of a big decision to make just like that. Since you are three, we ended up going with the number three. We put it on you, & the shirt went down halfway to your knees. It was so stinkin' adorable.

After a little practice, it was time to start the game. The ball was kicked off, & Grandma, Papa, Daddy & I watched you just stand there looking confused. I understood the confusion. Up until this point, everyone on your team had practiced with their own ball. All of a sudden you were all on the same field with only one ball. Except for when your coach asked you to kick the ball in, you mostly stood & looked confused for the next few plays.

When it came time for a water break, Daddy & I gave you a little pep talk. We talked about how there would only be one ball, & reminded you of some of the things you had practiced. We told you it was OK to try to kick the ball away from the other team. When you returned to the field, we saw you run with a little more confidence. You started to at least make your way toward where the ball was. Once you got to the ball, it was a different story. It was clear you just weren't going to try to kick the ball away from another child. At one point, you got the ball & started to break down the field. We all cheered, but when a little girl from the other team ran up to try to kick the ball away from you, you stopped. You smiled & waved & said hello as the girl stole the ball away from you & kicked the ball toward the opposite goal (so much for the intimidating soccer stare).

Your daddy & I got it. We've been telling you to share & that it's not nice to take things from people your whole life. You just don't have that aggressive instinct. If another child wants the soccer ball you're kicking, that's OK. You'd rather just make friends. I absolutely understand that. It's one of the reasons I became a cheerleader instead of joining other sports teams. When it came down to it, I'd rather work with a team than compete against one.

Your daddy & I looked around the field. There were a few kids who were already pretty good at soccer. Then there was one kid rolling in a patch of dirt. One child was crying (he was clearly also confused as to why everyone didn't get to have their own ball). One child  refused to participate in the game at all (it took his poor dad half the game just to get him to put his jersey on). One child was amazing at stealing the ball, even from her own teammates. Two goals were scored on your team by members of your own team. It was clear that the USA soccer teams wouldn't be calling any of you kids anytime soon, but there you were playing soccer...the very best you could. And you were having fun, & Daddy & I were thrilled to watch it. It was really stinkin' cute.

You ended the game by putting your hands in & yelling team before giving high fives to the other team (at least you all were supposed to high five each other, mostly you all stood in a clump looking confused). Then you ran to the sidelines where Daddy, Grandma, Papa, & I were waiting for you. You were over the moon that you had just played your first soccer game & that we had been there to watch you & cheer you on.

Just like that, I became a soccer mom.

I love you so,

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