Monday, July 26, 2010

The kids are all right

Joseph has been playing soccer for five years now and in those five years he has never scored a goal.  Not a single one.  The fact is, he's just not very good at soccer.  He doesn't have the coordination or the motor planning or really even the attention span needed to be good.  He doesn't really care though.  He doesn't care that me spends half of the game staring off into space and the other half running in the wrong direction.  For whatever reason he likes soccer.

In the past it's been enough that he liked playing.  All the kids he played with were kind of in the same boat.  They didn't really know what they were doing and they were just out there to have fun and try hard.  This summer has been different though. All of the sudden everyone seems to know what they're doing and how to play.  They're aggressive and good.  Really good.  In fact, Joseph's team has never lost a game.  Now in some ways that's great because Joseph feels like he's part of that, that he has something to do with them winning.

In other ways it's not so great.  Sometimes the kids on his team get frustrated with Joseph for not knowing where to stand on the field or flinching when the ball comes by him or for forgetting that he can use his hands when he's the goalie.  It's painfully obvious that his skill level is so far behind the other kids and they aren't always kind about it.  I don't think that they're trying to be mean exactly but they can be pretty vocal when things don't go their way.

As a parent it's hard to watch your child struggle and not fit in.  There have been plenty of times when I have wanted to march onto the field and grab those kids by the shoulders and say "Be nice!  He's such a great kid!  He's funny and smart and kind and interesting and it doesn't matter if he can't kick the ball even it's at a dead stop three inches in front of him!"

Last week my frustration with the situation hit a new high.  Jesse had left work for a while to come to the game and I knew that Joseph was trying extra hard so that he could impress his dad.  If he would get anywhere near the ball someone else would swoop in and take it away.  He never even got a chance even though he was running as hard as he could.  After another kid scored a goal Joseph tried to give him a high five and the kid ignored him.  "I hate these kids, I hate them all." I muttered to Jesse.

I even took it to facebook. "I know that Joseph might not be the best soccer player in the world but he's a really nice kid. That puts him miles ahead of some of the other little shits on his team."

And then, something amazing happened.

After halftime the coach pulled Joseph aside and had him stand on the field near the other team's goal.  He kept his hand on Joseph's shoulder and reminded him to keep an eye on the ball.  And the kids on his team? They kicked the ball to Joseph.  On purpose.  Over and over and over.  Even when they had countless opportunities to score a goal themselves they kicked the ball to Joseph.  Every time someone from the other team kicked it away Joseph's team brought it right back to him.  They yelled encouragement and directions and cheered him on.  This went on for a good five minutes, the entire team clustered around him, helping him out.

And then Joseph scored a goal.

I couldn't really see through the crowd of kids when it happened but I heard him yell "YAY!!!!" and saw his little arms waving around.  When the crowd broke up I could see him hopping around and cheering.  I watched the kids give him high fives and congratulate him and I cried.  Oh how I cried.

I was still weepy when the game ended a few minutes later.  Joseph came over to me (or rather, strutted over) and said "Did you see it Mommy?  Did you see that I made my first goal ever?"

"I did babe!  You did so great!  I'm so proud of you!"

"I'm proud of me too.  I'm also proud of my team because we all worked together and I couldn't have done it without them."

Waterworks again.

Joseph told me that during halftime the coach said they wanted everyone to get a chance to get a goal this year so the coaches are to thank for putting it into motion.  The kids are the ones that really came through.  They didn't have to go along with it.  They could have gotten annoyed with the whole thing and given up.  They could have used it against him and been unkind about it.  They didn't though!  In fact, in the game since then I noticed a big chance.  When Joseph stood in the wrong spot on the field the kids gently directed him to the right place.  No one crabbed at him when he missed an easy shot or let the ball go through his legs as he was playing goalie.

I noticed a change in Joseph too.  He seemed more confident, more aggressive, more like he was really part of the team.  I know that one goal meant more to him than the other five years of soccer put together.  He doesn't feel like that goal was handed to him.  He feels like he had to work for it and that he was just a part of the team that made it happen.  He told me he's never going to forget that moment and I don't think I will either.

And the kids on his team?  Turns out that the little shits aren't half bad.


jenn said...

What a great post! :) Glad he got his chance to shine.

shyestviolet said...


Anonymous said...

Little shits just need some good guidance and it looks like the coaches came through with that!! I'm so happy to hear that Joseph kicked a goal... but even better is that his team is really being a team and helping him improve his game!!

Love... Grandma Judy

Jen said...

I just cried for 10 minutes after reading this. I think I'm ovulating.