Tag Archives: Soccer

Just (Try to) Do It.

I was watching my oldest daughter play soccer on Friday night.  I’ve watched my oldest daughter play soccer since she was 5.  I’ve watched her enjoy playing soccer for the past 5 seasons.   I’ve watched my little girl, since she was 5, for 5 seasons; play a game she is not very good at.

Yes, my daughter is not a very good soccer player.  Although it pains me (like Spiderman deliberately ignoring his Spider-Sense), I indeed said it.  It’s true.  Hannah is not a very good soccer player. I have never been of the ilk to believe my children have been chosen for some predestined on the field greatness.  I’m not reliving my childhood aspirations through them.  I have no desire to come to fisticuffs with coaches if she were not to play enough minutes in a game.  I want to cheer at everything, not yell at mistakes or missed opportunities.  I want my kids to play sports for what they were intended to be, fun.  Most of all I want my daughter to try.

But we live in a ‘Just Do It’ Nike culture. So I ask myself, is the most important lesson for my children to learn, ‘Just Do It’?  Or is it more important for them to recognize, sometimes, you can’t, just do it?  Sometimes you fall.  Sometimes you miss the goal (or the ball altogether).  Sometimes you lose but that shouldn’t stop you from trying and then trying again if need be.  Shouldn’t I be teaching them, in order to do anything, we first need to try (and maybe fail)?  Shouldn’t I also be teaching them, when we do fail, it does not mean we quit but we try harder next time (this is exactly philosophy my cousin Carl and I used to finish Kid Icarus on the old Nintendo after about 13hrs of continuous playing)?

The worst thing I could think of would be for her to stop trying.  What if my kids had stopped trying to walk (I’d most likely own the largest and most uncomfortable baby carrier in the world and have 4 to 5 herniated discs)?  What if, because they didn’t start talking by reciting the Gettysburg Address, they stopped trying to talk completely (Thus never saying ‘Dada’ before ‘Momma’)?  The lesson is, my children’s entire lives have been made up of trying.

But haven’t all of our lives have been made up of trying? When we failed, we tried again until we were finally able, as Nike tells us, to just do it.  A trait I think is much more important because it’s easy to say ‘just do it’ but it’s hard to dust yourself off after failing and keep trying to do it.

This is why, as I see Hannah running around the field with determination in her eyes, sweat on her forehead, and her tongue slightly sticking out of her mouth, I know it’s not important whether or not she can loft the corner kick over the defender’s head, it’s important she doesn’t stop trying.

I played basketball.  I was not the greatest basketball player, I knew this, but it never stopped me from trying.  I tried harder than anyone on the court (whenever I was lucky enough to get on the court).  I kept trying, even as my prowess on the pine peaked at ‘pretty good but not great’.  So I suspect Hannah will continue to play soccer and maybe, as she keeps going, she will become great.  Or maybe she will be good or even just ok.  There’s nothing wrong with any of those outcomes.  Because since she was 5, she has never been discouraged.  As other kids were doing kicks she couldn’t do, she never stopped trying to do those kicks too.

I’m watching her this past Friday night and I don’t care if she scores 6 goals and has 5 assists or can’t get out of her own way because I see how much fun she is having and how hard she is trying. Its written all over her face.  As she continues on (in soccer or anything else), if she continues to try to do, I don’t care if she ends up being great, good, or ok because I’ll never stop cheering and never stop being proud of her.

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Riding the Rusted Bike

Thinking before we act.  Sometimes we forget.  We are known to volunteer for things that, at the moment, seem like a good idea.  When I was a teenager, my friends and I decided to use an old rusted bike to ride onto an old wooden door we fashioned in to a ramp in to a lake.  I have been known to blindly ‘okay’ requests from the kids only to find out they are painting the kitchen…with pudding.  Lots of times our rush to action doesn’t work out too well.  As if I needed to say it, the wooden door ramp turned out to be not so successful.  But sometimes, we can be pleasantly surprised by our impulse to act.  Sometimes we have to ride that rusted bike off the wooden door.

This fall I volunteered to help coach my 8-year-old daughter’s U9 Girl’s Soccer Team.  The head coach, a personal friend of mine, before the beginning of the season had sent a team wide plea for help email to the parents.  I think when he decided to coach he never thought about needed help until he realized he would be coaching 12 eight year old girls.  I responded to his plea that of course if he needed help, I would help.  Not only was my daughter on his team but he was my friend.  The gravity of my act of volunteerism didn’t sink in until after I hit the ‘SEND’ key. I was going to help coach 12 eight year old girls learn the game of soccer?

I really hadn’t thought this one through.  I had already been sucked in to coaching my five-year old daughter’s soccer team (which was more fun than instruction). Now I had committed to three more days a week to a sport I am not shy to admit I know very little about. There were higher expectations at this level.  The girls would need to learn more than ‘don’t use your hands’ and ‘kick it that way’ like my U6 team.

But, like when I rode the rusted bike off the wooden door, I took the leap.  I figured I could just follow my friend’s instructions and tag along with the girls.  So every Tuesday and Thursday, my two girls (the 5-year-old came too) and I grabbed our soccer balls and headed to practice.  On more than one occasion, I set up the cones the wrong way for drills.  I told the girls the wrong way to kick the ball, had to be taught what is and what is not offsides, and had the same lost look on my face as the girls did when our coach explained how to Cruyff.  Despite all of that, every Tuesday and Thursday, my kids and I grabbed our soccer balls and headed to practice.

Practice got easier for me.  I got the hang of the drills (not so much the cone placement though).  I even started to run some of those drills I was asking about earlier in the year and would eventually demonstrate the Cruyff myself.  Things were good. I was having fun and enjoying my time with the team.  So much so, regardless of how rushed we all felt getting home from work, eating dinner, and doing homework before practice, we all got excited every Tuesday and Thursday when we grabbed our soccer balls and headed to practice.

Three quarters of the way through the season, coach asked me if I would be alright running every practice.  He had been asked to coach the boy’s team at his school.  He was going to change the days of practice to accommodate the extra responsibility but I liked our Tuesdays and Thursdays and so, without giving it a thought, I agreed to handle practices.  The gravity of this decision didn’t hit me until the first Tuesday when my daughters and I grabbed our soccer balls for practice. Again, I rode the rusty bike off the door.

The funny thing was, even though I hadn’t given much thought to the new responsibility I had agreed to, I still got excited and was totally invested every Tuesday and Thursday to go to practice.  So much so, one Thursday I had forgotten to pack my practice clothing.  With no time to get from the babysitters to my house to change and back in time to start, I went to practice in my suit (I’m still trying to clean the dirt off of my shoes).

Our season just got over this past weekend.  We had our pizza party.  We handed out trophies.  We hugged the girls.  We thanked the parents.  On the way home, my oldest admired her trophy and her little sister unsuccessfully jockeyed for position to grab hold of the trophy.  I smiled. We all made it through those practices till the end of the season.  Me.  The girls.  Their parents.  My shoes. It was a joy for me to go to practice and be apart of our team.  We laughed, we learned though I’m still a little fuzzy on offsides), and we all had fun, more fun than I had ever thought I would when I agreed to ride the rusted bike off of the wooden door this season.