“I am so excited about tonight,” she said, with a big smile spreading across her face.
Man, I love that little face.
“You are? I’m so glad! How come?” I asked.
“I’m excited about seeing my friends again and playing soccer.”
I cautioned her that this time I think we only know one other person on the team. The son of a friend, that Madeline has only met a handful of times.
“That’s ok, I’ll make new friends.”
And so it goes.
That bright little spirit. The go-get-’em attitude.
One of my firm rules, since Nick was old enough to start playing sports, was that the kids had to play sports. One sport. I don’t care which one. They can try a few until they see what they like best. Or stick with one. But there will be sports.
It just teaches them so much. Things that books can’t. Teaches them things they learn by doing, by being involved in. Working together for a common goal. Helping each other. Socializing with kids outside of their normal social circles. Being fit and active. How to lose and still be ok. How to handle winning gracefully. How to problem solve. How to meet their goals and objectives. And loving the great outdoors.
And so much more.
I played softball for years on our town teams growing up, and my Dad coached. My sister played field hockey in high school and college.
Nick started playing soccer when he was 4, and although he has tried other sports (even baseball for a season and karate for six months), he loves soccer and it has been a constant year after year. He plays two seasons a year (Spring and Fall), and has had amazing growth over the years. What started as something I said he had to do, has blossomed into something he really loves doing.
I started Madeline with soccer last year, and she loved it from the start. Playing a sport that you see your older brother play certainly helped add to her fondness for it.
They both play on a town team, which I love because it exposes them to new people that they might not have otherwise met. Kids that they might not go to school with. And that makes future social encounters even better … because then when they go to summer camp … or a new school … there are already familiar faces from the town activities they enjoy together. We actually met a neighbor for the first time at last week’s soccer practice. We’ve been living two doors apart for the past 10 years, and had never met before then.
Madeline’s team started practice last week (Nick starts tonight). As soon as we figured out which team was hers, she went running out onto the field right away. Two girls, five boys, I watched as they all sat down on the field, holding their soccer ball in their laps. From fifty feet away, I could see her twisting her hands around as it came time to introduce herself. Although she is a fearless wonder, even she gets a shy moment every now and then.
And then they were off. Kicking the ball to each other. Stealing the ball. Dribble, dribble, dribble. Nick and I cheered from the sideline as Madeline stole the ball from the coach not once, but twice, taking off with it like a speed demon.
This is what it’s all about, folks. This is our now.