Sunday, June 7, 2009

The end of an era?

So today dawned with the promise of a suburban Sunday spent at the soccerplex watching our Maniacs play their last game of the season, perhaps their last match as a team, after having narrowly lost the championship (again) yesterday. Most of the parents are decidedly saddened to find ourselves in this situation where it appears extremely likely that not only is our coach of 5 years (10 seasons!) leaving to find a situation more suitable for his own daughter's needs but that many of the girls have come to a point of skills development where they are looking for rather less or more competition... today was the day we all knew very well would be the last game for "us". Sad, sad, sad.

Beautiful morning, a nasty opponent to take on ... the opposing coach having allegedly advised his players to kick our star player at every opportunity, the whole thing escalating to the attention of the league leadership. I was so happy that our girls displayed the most amazing sportsmanship you might imagine, took the nasty girls out 5- 0 AND Haley scored her first ever goal outside of practice. Big day for us.

With about five minute of playtime left I was standing with the coach as we both winced over a cluster of cleats trying to claim the ball, each of us cheering on both Haley and the other Maniac in the scrum. Coach said to me, "I have very few unanswered prayers in my life but there is ONE that kind of needs some quick action if it is ever to be granted..." and in about 30 seconds, Haley recovered the ball and scored the goal. Some times you get lucky in life; finding this Coach was a coup. I couldn't be happier for the important things he's taught our girls through the game of soccer. He told the girls today, "this team, all of us, we show what kind of sportsmen and athletes we are by what we do on the soccer field. When other people begin talking about what their team does well, to talk about what they think of us, remember that nothing matters besides what happens on the field during game time. And there's nothing else to be said that matters a single bit."

It seems kind of sentimental for me to be so struck by this obvious statement but really, what I've seen from some of the parents and coaches of other teams runs quite contrary to this simple thought. I think youth athletics (under 10 years of age, for instance) should be primarily about the principles teamwork and sportsmanship and the game, secondarily about skills development and competition.

So today marks the end of a happy, privileged era in our kids' sports lives. I hope we'll continue to be so fortunate in finding new teams and leadership for our kids.

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