Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Will She Ever Play Again??

Unlike many parents, Gina and I never pushed our kids to play team sports. Perhaps it's because neither of us played organized sports when we were young. It was different back then. Most kids just hung around the neighborhood, rode bikes, skated, played tag, swam... basically just happy-go-lucky goofing around.

Not so anymore! Many of today's kids are booked solid throughout the year: AYSO or YFL in the fall, rec basketball in the winter, Little League or softball in the spring.

Both our kids have or had friends on this program, and with peer pressure being a dominant force in their lives, eventually they both wanted to play too. So we signed them up.

So each kid came late to their respective sports (Alicia soccer; Brian baseball) and to some extent, each felt a bit behind in the beginning. Crazy, huh!?! Starting soccer at 9 and you're behind because all the other girls started at 6! But they stuck with it and soon enough their skills were right there with the other players. More importantly, they were having fun! Neither kid is driven by competition, but each really loved being part of a team. They made new friends from other neighborhoods and schools. They got exercise!!! And, significantly in my opinion, they were exposed to a new kind of authority figure... a coach. That was not always a positive experience--there has been occassional friction--but dealing with it will prove to be a key lesson growing up.

I'm writing all this in the past tense because, for Alicia, this chapter in life is now over.

Her AYSO U-14 soccer team had a very successful year. They won the SB region, and then won the Area 10W playoffs against the best teams from the coastal area from here down to Camarillo. Then this last weekend they played in the Sectional Tournament in Bakersfield. The sixteen best teams from Central California, divided into four pools. Alicia's team, The Stingrays, won their pool with a tie and two close wins. But the next day they lost in the semi-finals to a powerful team from Turlock, and also in the consolation match. That was a brutally tiring game that went to two overtimes and wasn't decided until the ninth penalty kick in a shoot-out. The girls were exhausted but still proud of their accomplishment--finishing 4th in Central California.

But Alicia had already decided this was to be the end for her. She perceived soccer this year as inconvenience and agitation. The practices were long and difficult, and usually interfered with her busy social calendar. The Stingrays' success was a mixed blessing--while many of her friends were done in November, her team continued on with playoffs. She missed parties to play soccer ...in Oxnard and Bakersfield! And the coach was pretty volatile and loud. Not abusive, but much more serious about winning than Alicia had experienced in her first four years.

So this all leaves Gina and me a bit somber and ambivalent. We'll miss the Saturdays at the soccer fields, gossiping with the other parents, and watching kids play. We won't miss the driving all over town to practices. But really we just hope that these five years of AYSO were a positive experience for Alicia, and one that she looks back upon fondly. I will be absolutely ecstatic if she calls up four years from now in college to tell us that she's playing intramural soccer!


Olaf Vanderhoot said...


Marco Fanelli said...

Gotta love balance in the universe. I'm overly wordy and tend to babble on about not very much. And then there's OV... word!