We've reached the end of yet another soccer campaign--just one in an extended string of them for my boys--and as usual it's bittersweet. For one thing, this season represents the second-to-last one that Derek will be eligible to play for our local rec-league, as it only includes teams through 8th grade. So although there's the prominent feeling of "whew, say goodbye to those twice-a-week, 2-hour practices (both brothers back-to-back) and Saturday games (one for each)", there's also the beginning stirrings of nostalgia already, as we can see the end...still distant as yet, but just peeking over the horizon. (Also, once we're all rested up and settled back into a less-crazy routine, we have a moment to ponder the fact that it's also a very looooong Winter ahead of us before the next season gets underway...which is a bit of a bummer...)
This Fall, Riley competed in the U12 Division--which covers 5th and 6th grades--for the first time. At each level, some technical aspects of the game change, presenting new challenges to the players. In this case, the field size and the length of the games both increase. This tends to result in somewhat of a "learning curve" as the younger kids adjust; the older ones therefore often dominate the standings throughout the weeks of competition. As parents, we've become familiar with this system, and tolerant of the potential ups and downs from one season to the next. (Or perhaps it's just that after hundreds of soccer matches, we've cultivated a very Zen approach that allows us to...I don't know..."become one with the energy of the open field"...or on second thought, it's probably just the pregame coffee talking...) Anyway, with all this being said, Riley's gang was really pleasantly competitive this year...winning a few, losing a few, and since this is "the beautiful game" we're talking about, even finishing in a tie, once. And as they say, a good time was had by all.
Derek's squad, on the other hand, had moved up to the top of their U14 division, age-wise. Last year, as 7th-graders, they performed the unenviable role of...let's just call it "those getting their...tushies...kicked all over the place" as the bigger, stronger students pretty much rolled all over them (sometimes literally--trust me, it was a lot of things, but it wasn't pretty...) But in this scenario, what goes around does, in fact, come around, and it was their turn to run rampant...which they did, with copious amounts of enthusiasm. Without going into the details, let's just say they scored buckets of goals while giving up very few...and leave it at that. Unfortunately, their stellar season ended in the worst possible way, as they lost a hard-fought, nailbiting (rather, that was the parents on the sidelines) Championship game...in #%*& penalty kicks. (Sigh....haven't we been here before? Yep, and guess what, still SUCKS...)
All of this was well behind us, however, as we headed into the very important...Postseason Parties. In time-honored tradition, Coach had booked a session on a local indoor turf field, for an all-out, no-mercy...okay, okay, "friendly match" between the kids and whatever parents were feeling stupid--I mean "feisty"--enough to take them on. Our fearless leader also very wisely mixed the teams, so 10-year olds, parents, and a few older brothers all mingled on either side of the ball....lessening the chances of anyone getting pummeled too harshly. He did an excellent job balancing the contest, too, as the score ended up 1-1...and there were no injuries. Then...it was time (cue ominous music, foretelling impending doom) for the teenagers to storm the pitch. Last year at this time, Derek was neither taller nor heavier than me, aaannnd this year he's both. Somehow, these boys keep stretching, while I just get...older and slower. How is that fair? So for me, personally, as long as I came out of this without breaking or tearing anything, I'd be happy. (Oh, who am I kidding--I have a competitive streak that's tough to shut down, and I had much loftier aims...you know, "not looking like a doofus" being high on the list. Also "not allowing the superior soccer players to run circles around me, unchecked"...Yeah, stuff like that...)
And I've gotta say, it was loads of fun...pretending like I know what the HECK I'm doing on a soccer field. Whatever--I didn't hurt anything, and (bonus) I don't think I made too much of a fool out of myself, I'm gonna call it a big old "W". Oh, except one little problem: my precious son Derek, exasperated after the other team scored, had the sheer gall to (are you ready for this?)...criticize my defense! ("Mom, what are you doing? That was yours! Go play forward, I'm taking over!") Um, excuse me? Killer instinct, much? (Oh, wait a minute...yeah, partially my fault...never mind.) What I meant to say was, "Instead of taking the time to waltz back here and give me grief, why don't you and that mouth of yours trot on up the field and score a goal to even it out? Oh, and you're grounded, so there!" (Maybe I need to work on my trash-talk, ya think?) Other than that, it was a hoot...a sweaty, sprinting, sucking wind...barrel of laughs. In the end, the scoreboard showed another tie, so we took that to mean "everyone's a winner". And it really doesn't matter one way or the other, since we all get pizza and doughnuts for our effort. Yay, team(s)! Now thank goodness I have plenty of opportunity to rest up until the Spring go-around...