It’s how you play the game
You win some, you lose some, and sometimes you lose them all.
We are old hats at recreational soccer. We are recently involved in competitive soccer which bears little to no resemblance to recreational soccer. Recreational soccer is about being active and having fun, competitive soccer is about honing skills to World Cup level and having the power to CRUSH the competition at the tournament level.
This holds true even if the competition is 5. I think the legal age that many competitive travel soccer players start training is conception.
It’s distinctly possible that their fetal ultrasounds include a soccer ball.
Our competitive tournament team consists of five kids, exactly four practices and borrowed jerseys. They resembled nearly every Disney movie you’ve ever seen where the rag-tag bunch of Bad News Bears takes the field.
They are talented, don’t get me wrong. Each of the players on the field is considered among the best in their respective recreational leagues back home (See also: Big fish, small pond).
Nonetheless, we had warned the kids going in that the competition would be tough.
Prior to our first game, we had seen a group of men kicking the ball around at the far end of the field. One particularly impressive player was able to do a handstand while deftly handling the ball with his feet.
While unlikely to come up in play, it certainly made for an impressive pregame show.
“Must be coaches” we thought. Then the “coaches” lined up to play. These were our opponents. Not only was nearly ever player a foot or more taller than our kids, but one even sported a beard.
We kept our hopes high at the start of the game. Unfortunately, life is rarely like a Disney movie. The underdog did not prevail.
Instead the other beat us, no, crushed us. Like bugs. Tiny, soccer ball holding bugs.
Four times our kids would take the field in 90-plus degree heat. Four times they would be trounced soundly.
This really was a whole different ball game. By now not only were we suspicious that something was amiss, but the other team seemed concerned as well.
Discussing the situation, I mentioned that my daughter was 11 years old.
To this one of the mother’s of the other team responded that the players we were up against were 15.
This was also a team that traveled all over the eastern U.S. to compete. It would seem that we were out of our league, literally.
One of the main hurdles as a columnist is to never cross over into boring people to tears with the wonder of yourself and your family. I am proud of the true sportsmanship shown by our players who lined up no less than FIVE TIMES in the blistering heat, and maintained a great attitude despite the absolutely certainty they were going to be slaughtered.
Nonetheless, this column is really about the kind of champions who exhibit winning behavior on — and off — the field.
If this were a Disney movie it would go something like this: Once there was a little band of soccer players who decided to attend a tournament. They hadn’t played together previously and had only four practices to prepare, but they were good players and their hearts were true. Then they arrived to find out they had been inadvertently scheduled to play giants.
Big, hulking giants who travel the land and were probably just as puzzled as anyone as to why they were playing 11-year-olds.
Fortunately, the giants were kind and did not crush the intrepid young team too badly. Thank you giants. Soccer is a contact sport. Sticks and stones may break your bones — but so will having a guy who trumps you by four years and 50 pounds.
At best, these players could have humiliated our kids if they chose to. Words do hurt too. At worst, they could have physically hurt them.
As undisputed winners, they chose to do neither. They played with grace and easily won, but they also played with restraint and kindness. Almost as if they still recalled what it was like to be the losers, too.
Sometimes life IS like a Disney movie in that the giants turn out to be large in height — and heart.
They also remind us that all grand-standing and bragging by the pros aside, true champions have a lot of class. It has been said that it’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game.
This weekend we took on giants — and we lost. Yet all we can say from the experience is this: Well played Giants, well played.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt wishes those giants well in their next competition — or World Cup. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org; P.O. Box 38, Salem, Ohio 44460 or http://www.KymberlyFosterSeabolt.com.)