So yeah, the kid is playing soccer.
Let me start by saying that is a generous description of what is actually happening.
Frank has really spent his time playing golf and not much else in the way of sports. That’s fine with me, and probably him too. Tracy rightly thought he should get a broader experience. You know before he settles into golf for good. AYSO Soccer was the next thing on the calendar so we signed him up. That tale of woe can be read here: And So It Begins
We had kicked the ball around in the backyard a little but never really got into the nuts and bolts of the original game of futbol. It’s a great game, don’t get me wrong. Two of my best friends were stars in high school, but golf is a greater game and Frank is a natural. So we do that.
Of course once we signed him up, we’d have to do more than just kick it around. Frank wasn’t aware of all this. He really had no idea what we were doing. When we got to the place to register, there was a huge play-set next door. He thought we would be taking him to that every Saturday and he was all for it. Poor kid. Had no idea we would be dressing him like a miniature clown and making him run around a field for an hour just for our own amusement.
Like I said we had kicked the futbol around the back yard a bit but now that he had a uniform, and tiny shin guards, and tiny futbol cleats, and gigantic freaking socks that would have gone all the way up to his ears if he didn’t have hip bones blocking the way, we had to get serious about learning the game.
So I wrap him in these ridiculously huge socks, tie his tiny little cleats on him and out we go for some work on the pitch. That’s euro talk for soccer field. Here’s a shot of his first efforts. Lot’s of promise.
I mean, it looked like he was getting it and might even enjoy playing.
Then we go to his first game. Half hour of practice followed by half hour of game. Frank won’t get out of the car. He was afraid the other kids would laugh at him. I said, “No Frank, the kids won’t laugh. Parents will. But not the kids. It’s ok though. Parents get to laugh at the kids as a trade off for getting up so early on a Saturday to take you to soccer.”
Surprisingly he accepted that answer and I learned an invaluable truth. Tell the kid straight. If he realizes you’re not giving him the old windsong (read: lying) he can process it and move on.
We get to the field we’re playing on. It’s 8:30 am and a little chilly. The grass is wet from dew and being freshly mowed the day before. His cleats have grass on them. He comes over to me and asks me to clean them. I didn’t realize it then, but that should have been a warning flag.
The coach asks the kids to gather in a circle and take a knee. Frank is the only kid standing up. I asked him why. His response: “I didn’t want to get grass on my knee.” We are four games into the season, the kid has yet to take a knee in the huddle before or during any of the four games.
The second game is picture day. You get a card made of your little soccer player, akin to a baseball card. The picture is with him holding the ball. Very cute. Except Frank won’t touch the ball. The picture lady helper girl is very patient. She asks why he won’t hold the ball. “There is grass on it.”
She gets a towel and cleans it. He’s holding the ball.
Game four, Frank falls down for the very first time. He’s 2.5 feet off the ground falling on a pillow of grass thicker than he is tall. Read Copernicus, it’s possible. He gets up and stands still staring at the ground. The coach runs over to see if Frank is hurt. Frank holds his hands out, they exchange some words and Frank then proceeds to wipe his hands on the coaches pants. The coach looks over to me with a smile/pity grimace that says, sorry bud you’re on your own.
The soccer moms I’m sitting with love it. They think Frank’s future girl friends will like that he’s so focused on being neat and clean. Really? I grasp that theory like the last life preserver from the Titanic. It’s the only thing that lets me sleep at night.
As far as actually playing the game, well this shot says it all.
Once Frank found his shadow during one game, he was not a very effective teammate. He dances around making his shadow do different things. Sometimes he’ll just stand there and move his hands to make different shaped shadows on the ground.
It’s really great fun to watch him. We, as in the other soccer moms from our team, have a great time watching all the kids do everything but play soccer. And there is the other invaluable truth.
The kids, save a few who are really good, don’t care about how much they score or kick it. They are just running, and jumping, some doing cart wheels during the game and having fun because they are with friends. As much as I might try to explain it to him, and I won’t, at this age Frank will never understand the nuance of getting the ball from the kids in the opposite colors, kicking to the other end of the pitch, and kicking it in the net. He just wants to be running with the group who does all that. If that group runs off to chase a squirrel that ran onto the field, Frank will be running right with them not caring for second if they catch the squirrel.
Besides, I don’t give a flyin squirrels behind about soccer. Frank has never made one shadow puppet on the golf course. But we have stopped to watch a bald eagle fly over, help a very large turtle get across the #5 fairway, and laugh at a rabbit running so fast across the green on # 12 to get out of my way, it almost hit Frank. Golf allows him to take in what he’s seeing. Can’t really do that on the pitch. But he loves running around with his teammates, as he calls them.
Took me four games to understand how much fun he’s having.
He absolutely could care less if he ever kicks the ball once. So long as he’s running after it with the other five kids on the field, he’ll gladly let one of them kick it.
There’s something admirable in that I think.