Thursday, April 20, 2006

Soccer Days Again

Community soccer has started again. The three older kids are on three different teams. Three sets of practices a week. Three different games on Saturdays. It's something totally different for them, and I'm so glad they have it. The coaches are delightful, and soccer puts my children in contact with kids in the community they normally wouldn't get to know.

Erin's team is melded with P.E. at school for the local Grade 6/7 class, since they are, in effect, the team (minus Erin and one other homeschooler) and their teacher is the coach. It works beautifully for us because it keeps her practices out of the precious after-school hours when so many other things have to be scheduled. She's been riding her bike to and/or from occasional practices and demonstrating a lot of independence and confidence as she breezes into and out of the classroom on her own.

Sophie is one of the more capable, elder members of her team, which spans everyone from newly-five-year-olds who trip when running and start asking "when is it over?" after twenty minutes to 8-year-olds who are a head taller than she. I can see her ability to "see" the game maturing from last year.

Noah is the kid who I wonder about. Last year I practically had to bribe him to get him to give organized soccer a try. Team sports are definitely not my thing but I saw all that physical ability on the lawn at home and pushed him to give it a try. He was worried about the competitiveness and about the idea of letting a team down. He hates scorekeeping, at least on an individual level -- becomes almost physically ill in individually graded/scored situations. But as it turned out he was just fine with the team play and handled both wins and losses with grace and without stress.

He has such natural ability. He loves soccer. He garners incredulity from coaches for his sense of the field and his ability to cover the ball and be where he's needed. In goal he's amazing. He has phenomenal instincts and no fear of the ball. He's tiny compared to his teammates but one of the strongest, fastest, turn-on-a-dimest players. That's him in the photo above with the gloves on ... as usual in possession of the ball despite being crowded by a bunch of much bigger players from the other team.

It makes me wonder... am I failing to help him capitalize on this gift he has? I am not a big fan of organized sports of any description and we have certainly not placed high value on this sort of pursuit when compared to, say, music or literacy or gardening. Where would he be if he had grown up in another family, if he'd lived somewhere else and if his mom had yes to the spot in the competitive gymnastics program he was offered and eagerly taken him to practice four times a week, if we'd signed him up for hockey at 6 and soccer every spring and fall from the same age? What kind of a kid would he be if he'd grown up in a family that placed as high a value on sports as we do on music? Would he be happier? More self-confident? Would he have as strong an aversion to competitiveness? Where would his skills be at?

It's fun to wonder, so long as the wondering is not tinged with guilt.

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