Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Now for the Game of U15s...

Okay, it’s time for the other half of the Soccer Saga, otherwise known as “the teenager’s tale”. It all started when Derek tried out for the JV team at his new high school, enduring two-hour morning and evening practices for several days. Each time he came home and reported back to us, he didn’t seem all that confident about how it was going. Mostly, he painted a discouraging picture about how many of the kids were much bigger (and if you think this might be an exaggeration, he was specifically talking about the ones with full facial hair…who drove themselves to the field) and how they also seemed to demonstrate more talent than he did. So he wasn't all that surprised when he got cut, rather than making the team. Honestly, he wasn’t crushed by it at all (I think I was actually more upset…for him…than he was). Rather, his immediate reaction was a semi-panicked, “Oh my gosh, what am I gonna do about playing soccer this Fall?”

You see, he couldn’t simply join the same league his brother was already registered for, because they only include U15s in the Spring (their rationale being that they can’t drum up enough players, as too many boys in that age group are busy…playing for their school…oops…) So I had to research other opportunities for Derek to get out and kick it around this season. What I came up with--the only choice, as it turned out--was a club called (are you ready for this?) Rainbow. Aww, doesn’t that sound all...happy...and friendly? Sure it does…but all that glittery good feeling comes with a (rather significant) caveat: they play small-sided (when Derek’s used to a full squad of 11 vs.11)…short field (Derek’s previous games were all the standard 100-yards for the past 2 years)…and (here it comes, the biggie) CO-ED.

I’m sorry, what? You mean, they’ll be sharing the same grass with…girrrrllllls? Now, please don’t misunderstand me, here--I’m not in any way disparaging the athletic ability, or the mental or physical toughness of my gender. I was a field hockey player, myself, and I’ve watched the sisterhood of the U.S Women’s National squad kick...butt...on the pitch. I know chicks can Bring. It. On the other hand…Derek spent the last 4 seasons in his Maryland league getting pushed around at first (as a 7th grader, by 8th graders), then practicing and honing the techniques of…um…let’s just say “using your body as a tool” (it sounds nicer than “weapon”, yeah?) to gain and maintain possession of the ball. The “shoulder check”, the “strategic lean”, even the illegal-but-only-if-the-ref-sees-you “shirt tug” were all finely crafted to employ against…other, similarly-aggressive male creatures. So really, my only fear was the potential size differential…and testosterone level…between my 5’ 10”, 135-pound son…and his female teammates.

But we took a deep breath, crossed our fingers, and signed up anyway, hoping for the best. Aaannnd...as it turned out, there was no need to fret. Derek came home from his first practice and declared that the best player on the team was a tall girl named Sarah, who ran circles around the rest of them with her impressive ball-handling skills. As for the others, there is a wide range of ages on the team…and also admittedly large differences in height as well. (The smallest boy is--not kidding--6 inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than 6th-grade Riley…) That being said, as one would hope, the kids just play, without regard to any of the pesky potential issues pondered by their parents. About the only thing that separates the sexes on this team is that one of the girls has to be reminded to remove her earrings before matches. (Yes, I realize this could just as easily apply to boys as well, but in this particular group she just so happens to be the only one with pierced ears…so far, anyway…)

At this point I’ve only seen the Sting in one game, (since my boys’ practices overlap, and I’m shuttling Riley around while Husband hangs with Derek) but they looked alright...for having been thrown onto a roster randomly by the commissioner, and only having worked out  together for a couple of weeks. One thing Coach Husband (oh yeah, he got roped into volunteering when they didn’t have a parent to supervise them) wants them to do a LOT more of is communicate with one another….yeah, that's right: “chatter on the field”…which will probably come naturally the more time they spend together and the more comfortable they get with one another. (Teenage boys being closed-mouthed, I get…but maybe the chicas can give them some pointers on how to talk it up out there?) Anyway, I’m looking forward to watching them develop as a well-oiled passing, shooting, scoring (not to mention of course the all-important "defending") machine. Yep, this should definitely be an interesting season…

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