I was not, as a child, what you would have called a “team player.”
Joining things just wasn’t my forte. I did not play softball, volleyball, basketball or field hockey.
I did one term as a Brownie before I realized they wanted me to come to meetings EVERY week, like a commitment or something.
I had the same experience a decade later when I tried out for flag line only to realize this entailed practice, painting signs and decorating lockers after school almost daily. It seemed less an extracurricular activity, more a part-time job.
No thank you. I passed.
Imagine my surprise to wake up and find myself a bona fide soccer mom.
Since the age of 5, our daughter has made soccer her hobby, her focus, her life. In a trunk, I have carefully kept every uniform since the early days of extra-small.
We have red and white and a particularly virulent orange. We have maroon and gray and black and gold untold. I have probably taken 10,000 photos of my daughter playing soccer.
This is not an exaggeration. In fact, 10k may be low ball.
Of those 10,000 photos many feature a group of girls in a particular navy blue uniform. I always stop at those.
Every team is special for what it brought to the game – and our lives – in that moment in time. Yet sometimes a team comes together in such a way that there are moments and memories that can only be described as magical. This was one of those teams.
We logged countless miles, untold hours and amassed quite a collection of tiny little hotel shampoos with this traveling team.
We know which parent can finagle the best team discount, which restaurants will allow 26 people to sit together without reservations and where you can find shoelaces for soccer cleats before 8 a.m.
We know each other’s children almost as well as we know our own.
We fret over bad ankles and bad days. We cheer their accomplishments so loudly and so uniformly that you’d be hard pressed to guess which parent belonged to a particular child. We were a great team.
This is where I tell you how we went to games and we won. But we didn’t. Not all that often, anyway.
We routinely, habitually went up against teams that were bigger, stronger and had played together since infancy.
Life is not a Disney movie. The underdogs did not prevail. Our team lost. A lot.
Our record wasn’t great but our camaraderie could not be beaten.
It was noted more than once that our girls looked happier losing a game than the winners did winning. They would lose by a country mile, then dance and sing their way off the field. That’s something.
As I scroll through the images of countless games, I see not only our daughter — I see every little girl’s shining face and unique talent.
I see one with freckles and a wicked left foot. One is a goalie we’re sure can fly. One is as petite as my daughter is tall.
You could scarcely believe they were on the same team, as one towered over the other. I wanted to call them Mutt and Jeff, but they wouldn’t have gotten the joke. They’re only 11 years old. Except that now, some of them are 12, and there is the rub.
Spring and summer birthdays churned out five newly minted 12 year olds — too old to stay with this “Under 12” team.
Imagine being 12 years old and forced into retirement? For the five girls moving on, the final weekend was bittersweet.
My favorite photo taken this weekend, actually ever for this team, wasn’t taken on the field at all. There is nary a hint of athleticism. No running feet or dramatic dive. No.
It is a pile of kids with laughing faces, mugging for the camera, having fun.
That, after all, is what we came for.
We hope to stay in touch with these wonderful people, but if we don’t, I know I will watch these girls grow up in the local paper.
They all have the makings of stars and achievers.
I know that as they grow we will see them be crowned and lauded for their athletic and academic scholarship, and I will smile and think, “I know that kid. I love that kid.” And I’ll mean it.
Twenty years from now, no one will remember the score of the games, but they will remember how the team tied them to a community and how it made them FEEL.
Happy, connected, talented, appreciated. In short: memorable.
Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened, indeed.
There may not be an “I” in Team, but there is the making of a word that outlasts a season, a scorecard and a team: memories.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt wishes you all a safe and happy season. Whatever you do. She welcomes comments c/o LifeOutLoud@comcast.net; P.O. Box 38, Salem, Ohio 44460; or P.O. Box 38, Salem, Ohio 44460.)