Five year olds playing soccer is the most adorable and maddening thing. They get distracted by birds and trees, enjoy taking huge, dramatic tumbles, and often break into dance routines mid-game.
I remember when Arlo played two years ago, he would mostly run around huffing and puffing and feeling like he was really working hard, which he was, but he never touched the ball. And before you tell me it’s five year old soccer, they just need to be running and they’re learning important skills about teamwork, yes. I know this. But there are other five year olds who touch the ball, a lot, with their feet, and even move it from point a to point b. Sometimes? They get it in a NET, which is a GOAL and all the parents go wooooooooooh. There are a couple of boys like that on Eli’s team this year and we have played against many teams full of players who just seem to GET IT more than certain others.
At the time I chalked Arlo’s not-getting-it of soccer up to, well, Arlo. He’s a generally thoughtful kid who likes to take in his surroundings before committing to them. He enjoyed the heck out of soccer because he had friends and they were a team and he likes running. That’s like 70% of soccer right there.
At the same time, three-year-old Eli was running around kicking balls like a real ball kicker and I thought welp, he’ll really nail soccer someday I reckon.
Turns out not so far. Eli also loves that he has friends and they are a team and he LOVES running. Loves it. Would run all the time if he could. However. There is another 30% to soccer and that is moving the ball.
Watching Eli at practice yesterday I realized he moves WITH the ball. He moves AROUND the ball. He chases the ball to and fro and he knows where the ball IS at any given moment. But he doesn’t actually go up to the ball, claim it, and move it, either by kicking or dribbling. And Arlo did the same thing. They both kind of hover at the edge of the action.
I watched him and started to see some commonalities between his (and Arlo’s) approach to soccer and my approach to life, new experiences, things I am not totally confident about. I have this tendency, to start and stop things, just a bit too afraid to get right up to the ball and own it, dominate it, take it and run WITH it, not next to it or just behind it.
(It sometimes can be seen in my overuse of commas. Just break the sentence! Break it! Move on.)
I’m going to work on amplifying my inner soccer parent voice — oh yes, there is one, it tries to come out every time I watch a soccer game played by five year olds — and when I see myself hanging about the edges of the action, waiting meekly for a good moment to step in, I will tell myself to get the fucking ball already.
Ripley didn’t so much play soccer as play “flocking” – he’d just run and run with his friends, totally unaware of the ball and really not terribly interested. ( Sometimes he’d pretend to be an eagle and flap his wings and shriek. ) Tate, like Eli, was more aware of the ball but didn’t get in there. When I asked him once why not, he said “But I don’t want to be RUDE.”
I do that, the looking at the ball and thinking of what I would do with it if I had it and how what I would do would be so much better than what that other guy is doing.
Maybe we need coaches to tell us to get the damn ball. Right? Can’t we have coaches?