Posted by: monsonmadness | November 27, 2012

Move over David Beckham!

For the last three months, I have been the volunteer soccer coach for the 3rd-5th graders at our old school, Ta’iala Academy. What an experience this has been.

Ta’iala is a really small private school. I believe they only have about fifty K-8th students in total this year, so rounding up enough people to play was hard, even though the team covered three grades. We were entering the private school soccer tournament on the island. There are six other schools, but they are all much bigger with lots of students, money, coaches, PE lessons etc!

We couldn’t come up with enough girls or boys for a team (even though it’s only seven a side at this age), so we were allowed to enter a co-ed team, but we had to play against the boys teams. Matthew and Benjamin were really excited to be able to play too and so the practices began.

The school had entered some older grades in the same competition last year with the principal as the coach, and they had come in dead last not winning a single game. At least there was no pressure for me right? Only one way to go!

When I started practicing with these kids I found out very quickly that my main job would be to make sure they had fun. These kids had not played soccer before and didn’t have a clue about how to kick a ball, how to dribble, or any of the rules.

It was actually a lot of fun, even though I ran around like a whale with my big tummy. I tried to do really fun drills to teach them some skills, and they were always happy and enjoying themselves. My other four kids did ok entertaining themselves on the sidelines while we practiced and things were looking good.

Then the tournament started. Oh boy. The kids (and the coaches and parents) on the other teams were so intense. This wasn’t just a game to them. This was serious. They all had matching uniforms on and shin guards and socks. They had warrior chants and special warm up routines. The adults jeered and laughed when we made mistakes or let goals in. This was about bringing honor to their team and to the school.

Then there was us. We didn’t have any soccer clothes so I had just asked the kids to wear the same color t-shirt. One kid had cleats, most wore sneakers, and the rest showed up in crocs or flip flops. Our goalie didn’t have gloves, we didn’t all have shin guards, but we all had smiles on our faces.

The other teams had several reserves to rotate in so that their players didn’t get too tired. We forfeited twice for not having 7 players, and played several games with no subs at all. Most games were played in 90 degree heat in direct sunlight. There were also several played in the torrential rain. We had more girls than boys on our team, and some of them were really small. The teams we played mostly had older and much bigger boys. Third grade girls against 5th grade boys!

After losing our first few games without scoring any goals, that became our motivation, we just wanted to score a goal, just one! It happened on a day that we had our biggest loss. The final score was 12-1 but our team was over the moon and went home happier than ever chanting “We scored a goal. We scored a goal.”

After every game I would email all the parents and tell them what a great job our kids were doing. Even though it wasn’t reflected in the scores, our team was getting better. I would choose a different MVP for each match and let them know why they were chosen. Sometimes it was for good soccer, other time it was for good sportsmanship, but each member got a turn to be MVP.

The highlight of the season for me came in our match last week. We were 7-0 down in the second half and just about ready to go home. Our team was awarded a free kick just past the halfway line, and I called Matthew up from defense to take it. I yelled for all of the offense to get up in the circle, unrealistically hoping that Matthew would be able to kick it hard enough to get close to them.

(Matthew, as a side note, has improved so much over the last few weeks. As you know, although he LOVES sports so much, and can still recite all the scores from the last World Cup, he is just not coordinated enough to be equal to his peers. In the games he was constantly getting hammered with the ball in the head or being knocked to the ground. Sometimes he would cry and I would have to pull him out, other times he managed to get back up and play. The ref in the last game told me Matthew couldn’t play because he was wearing glasses, but I reamed into her and her English wasn’t great so she didn’t know how to respond and I put an end to that nonsense.)

Anyway, back to the free kick. Matthew takes a few steps back to prepare for it. I’m yelling at him from the sidelines, “just kick it as far as you can Matthew” His head is down like a charging bull and he just goes for it. He kicks the ball up in the air towards the goal and we all just watch in slow motion as it goes up over the heads of all of our offense, all of their defense, over the waving arms of their goalie and into the back of the net. I’m not kidding, David Beckham couldn’t have made that shot.

Immediately Matthew turns to me with a look on his face that I will never forget. It will for sure be the highlight of his life, and one of mine too. We start screaming at each other. I run onto the pitch to give him a hug, and everyone is just screaming. No-one can believe it. It’s not even about one goal in a soccer match anymore. This is one of those moments that spans time, the only other thing that comes close is the joy and tears that I shed the day that Matthew finally learned to ride a bike (years after two of his younger siblings had learned to ride). This goal was a miracle, and who deserved it more than Matthew? I had tears in my eyes and yes, I peed my pants too! I’m pregnant, who cares right?

I’ve heard Matthew’s retelling of his goal about 50 or 60 times so far, but I don’t think I’ll tire of it like I do with all his other repetitions. He deserved this. I’m so happy for him. He had the best experience doing soccer, and I’m really glad I did it for my boys.

The season is over. Since our kids didn’t even make it to the playoffs, I got them all a medal each that said, “You’re a winner!”. They were so happy. Our team scored a total of 3 goals in all twelve games, and we had 62 goals scored against us. Dead last for the second year in a row. First place for enjoying themselves the most though. Our kids were the happiest, most positive players out there. Not once did any of them ever grumble or complain or say anything bad about a team mate who wasn’t playing well, or about any of the opposition, even when some of the other teams cheated or the refs seemed to make biased calls. I couldn’t be more proud of these kids. Definitely glad it’s over as I feel like I’m going to burst, but don’t regret it for a minute. It was a great opportunity for both me and my boys.

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Responses

  1. I’m not crying, but I did get a little choked up. And maybe my eyes were a little wet. I’m happy for you to have had that joy.

  2. That is so awesome!!! I am so excited for Matthew. I loved reading your story. And I only chuckled at the “I peed my pants” part because I can totally relate 🙂

  3. I didn’t pee my pants, but I did leak some tears! That is so awesome for Matthew!!!!! Good job promoting good sportsmanship in your players. It seems to be lacking in most youth sports anymore.

  4. Way to go Matthew!!!! ( I had tears in my eyes when I read this. ) We have also had soccer seasons where the kids didn’t win a game. While it is hard to watch as a parent (you really want your kids to do well) it is more important that the kids enjoyed themselves. Hopefully the kids on your team will want to play again.

  5. That’s so awesome! Way to go Matthew!

  6. Maybe Cynthia didn’t pee her pants but I sure did! Awesome awesome story!! So happy for Matthew!! I wish I could hear him recount it in person! 🙂 What a good mom you are, Helen!

    (I think you’re so insanely funny that you added that you peed, hahahah! Ohhhhh that kills me!)


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