I had the requisite folding chairs and Kiddo's water bottle. Hubby and I should have just settled down in the sunshine to watch a pack of six and seven-year-olds chase a ball around a field. Right? Wrong...
This is Kiddo's first season playing any sport. My Hubby still sacrifices himself to the Soccer Gods each Sunday, so I wasn't exactly overeager to give up my Saturdays as well. We waited for Kiddo to tell us he really wanted to play. It just took a while for him to tear himself away from his Legos and hours of free play.
His team has had a whopping three practices. Basically, the coach showed them how to kick a ball. We haven't really gotten to distance, passing or even much aim. Several times the players had to be rounded up from playing tag or picking dandelions. Kiddo was excited to have cleats (excuse me, boots) and knee socks (a.k.a. soccer socks) like his Daddy. Two little girls showed off their new shoes with pink stripes and chased their matching pink balls. Most kids were in Kindergarten. Newbies. Fresh meat.
Hubby (soccer show-off that he is) volunteered to help the coach wrangle kids and herd them towards their correct goals out on the practice field. He had no official position--it was just a fun way to blow off some steam after a stressful day at work. But last Thursday after practice the coach pulled him aside and said he couldn't make it to the first game Saturday and the assistant coach had been a no-show for two weeks. Could Hubby possibly help out?
How could he say no? Hubby was drafted.
Now, it's Kiddo's first game ever and our first time even watching a kids' soccer match, and suddenly Hubby is the fearless leader of a pack of wild and mostly untrained players. We figured it would be fine--just some low key bumble-bee ball. He's played for 30+ years himself. How hard could it be?
We arrived to find the opposing team doing organized warm-up drills called out by a drill sergeant. There were a lot of them--the field was aglow with future World Cup contenders zipping along in their fluorescent green jerseys. And they were all easily a head taller than our biggest player and probably double the weight of our smallest. They looked as if they had been playing together since they were waddling in diapers. Ugh oh...
Their coach must be a professional high school football coach and/or a Marine drill sergeant. He paced the sidelines barking orders and calling plays like, "Hey Wolf--get on that kid--take him down!" and "Defense stay in your positions-- knock 'em out!"
Coach Hubby ran along with the kids yelling, "Just kick the ball! No, our goal's in the other direction!"
The other team had fourteen players. They switched the entire squad on the field out every few minutes for freshly rested and watered reinforcements. We had one sub. Our little guys and gals were thirsty, unsure, and exhausted. Their goalies hunched in front of the net wearing special pennies and goalie gloves. Our goalies wore one of Kiddo's X-men t-shirts and I caught one picking clovers in the grass. At half time the other team had an organized huddle while their coach dressed them down and went over new strategies. At half time our team drank all of their water and tried not to cry.
Coach Hubby just shook his head and muttered how it was like reliving The Bad News Bears. Except soccer instead of baseball. And he couldn't drink beer at the field--although we probably all could have used one.
In the end, it was a debacle. The league is *not supposed to* keep score, but we went down in flames 13-0.
The parents still cheered as loud as we could each time one of our players got a foot on the ball or made a run towards the goal. We took pictures and gave pats on the back. We shouted words of encouragement. Since there were so few players, we quickly learned all their names and ages and previous experience (or lack of). We discovered who had unexpected speed and who wasn't afraid to lock horns with kids twice his size. We saw how amazing our kids were no matter how they played. And they did play well--the other team just played better. We were all proud.
After the game Kiddo knew his team had been spanked. But he still had fun. And so had Hubby. That made it a great day anyway.