I promised myself when I started this blog that it wouldn’t turn into a ‘mommy blog’. Mostly because I find most parenting blogs rather irritating with the constant whining about hard things and the never-ending talk of bodily fluids, but then I realized that is EXACTLY what running is; whining about hard things and talking about bodily fluids. SO. I’m going to talk about my son. Well, more specifically, about his soccer team. And soccer is mostly running so I think it still works. (Stay with me here.)
I agreed to be assistant coach to my son Levi’s indoor soccer team this year mostly because my awesome friend Tara was the coach and I can’t say no to her. I probably shouldn’t have ever agreed to that because I missed a bunch of games to go running instead, and those (not coincidentally) were the games the team actually won. I mostly just manned the gate for shift change and yelled a lot of rather unhelpful things like ‘Stop ‘em D’ and ‘First to the ball’ and cheered and high five-d so hard that each game left me with sweaty palms and a racing heart and a sore throat. I had NO idea what I was doing.
You see, I have my own checkered past with the sport. I signed up to play on my high school team because I don’t like the sounds of squeaky shoes on the gym floor (so basketball and volleyball were out) and our school was so small that all you had to do was show up and you made the team. No chance of rejection AND I get to be outside with my friends? That’s the sport for me! Except I was terrible. Truly terrible. I only made it onto the field when we were up by five goals and the real soccer players needed a break. For my senior year, there were so many girls who wanted to play, the coach decided to make two teams, leaving me at risk of facing that rejection I had been avoiding. After the teams were formed, he pulled me aside and said;
“You’re probably wondering why I put you on the ‘A’ team…since you’re not very good.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry because I knew he was right, but then he said something that changed my life forever.
“I wanted you on the team because you are a good social catalyst. You bring the team together and we need that.”
I really don’t care about being good at soccer, but being good at bringing people together? Yes please. I used that story in my first job interview out of university and they gave me the job because of it. Never did I imagine that my terrible soccer career would lead to a fulfilling professional career down the road.
Something else happened in those three years of leading cheers and riding the pine; I noticed how good I felt after every practice. I loved that chest heaving, lung burning, sweaty mess feeling as I walked off the field. And one day it dawned on me.
I don’t like soccer.
I like running.
And so, I started to run. Not for long, and not very far, but after the season was done, I found myself craving that feeling and could only find it again when I would head out on that long, flat gravel road with only the big prairie sky and the sound of my breath.
As fate would have it, 2/3rds of my children LOVE soccer and so here I am, back at the soccer field with my cheers and high fives, getting giddy over their own heaving chests and sweaty heads not because I love soccer, but because I look forward to the lessons they will pull from these years on the field, whether it be about how to get along with others, or how to cope with failure, or how to dig to find strength buried deep within yourself.
My favourite part of coaching this season was watching those little lessons unfold among our adorable troop of 8-9 year old boys. Like the little guy who looks up at his adoring family after every contact with the ball; he knows the value of tethering himself to the people he loves. Or the bird-frail boy who can’t seem to get through a shift without getting hurt, yet he keeps going back out with a big smile and the promise he will eat more to get stronger so he can be a better player. Or the tall and quiet kid, mature beyond his years, who commands the respect of his peers by leading by example. A community leader in the making.
But my favourite? The short and feisty kid with bright blue hearing aids who loves to play striker and blows by his opponents like they are standing still. That kid can run. Love him.
The chance of Levi going on to play soccer at a high level is pretty slim, (especially with the questionable coaching he received this past season) but this is not at all why we do this. If this was just about turning out a skilled soccer player it would never be worth the work; busy weeknights and early Saturday games, rushed laundry for clean socks and jerseys, the driving and scheduling. But we will continue to be ‘soccer mom and dad’ and support him and his sister in this as long as they need us to so they can figure out those million life lessons that come with sport; play with others, work hard, don’t give up, lead by example, cheer loud and give lots of high fives so you can bring people together.
Most of all, I hope my soccer playing children learn this:
Just. Keep. Running.