For every time there is a season.
She has had 48 of them. She is good at soccer. It’s been a passion since she was four years old.
Now it is Girlwonder’s senior year. This is a playoff game. If they win, they get one more game. If they lose, she is done.
These playoff games are emotional. Seniors never know which game will be the last.
Tonight there is a feeling in the air. Anxiously festive maybe?
Many members of the boy’s soccer team traveled to the city, at night, in the rain to support the girls. Social media is alight with “go get em girls!” and “good luck!”
We have amazing coaches, administrators, families, friends, and so many wonderful people guiding our kids.
It is cold. It is raining. It is dark outside the fuzzy glow of the stadium lights.
In the distance the city glimmers neon in the rain. Here there are cheers, and “move that ball!”
The last time we played this team in regular season they beat us 9-1. We came into this knowing it was likely to be our girl’s last game.
I sent her one message to read on the bus on the way.
“As you step out there tonight, remember to breathe, take it in, and savor the moment. Good luck. I love you. I love to watch you play.”
I am not a technical sport parent. I don’t rehash play by plays. I say “I love to watch you play.”
They take the field and are soon down by three points. Then, suddenly, Girlwonder executes a perfect soaring goal into the back of the net.
In a flurry of sensational plays on the part of her team, they close the gap. They are one point away from a win.
The rain comes down harder. Colder. The girls continue to rally on the field while the fans huddle in the stands.
It was a hard fought and fair game, but as the referee whistle cut through the rain, the game was over and our side had lost.
Girlwonder paused, her back to the crowd. I saw her shoulders heave as her teammates flowed toward her in a stream of wet jerseys, hugs, and ponytails.
One player very close to her, an unabashed tomboy and never a “crier,” began to sob. Girlwonder placed her arms around her teammate and they walked back toward the bench and the coach together.
The crowd surged out of the stands to gather around the fence where the girls would exit the stadium. I stayed behind on the bleachers, letting the crowd pass me.
I looked down to the crowd below. Big brother stood by the fence, shifting his weight from foot to foot.
He’s tall, so he didn’t have to crane his neck to see over many in the crowd.
He is tall, and handsome, and even after graduation his former teammates still call him “Captain Matt.”
He moves closer to the gate that separates the crowd from the stadium. Our principal, trying to be helpful, cautioned him that he shouldn’t step out on the field “it’s a playoff game.”
Boywonder walked out onto the field, alone, to meet his sister anyway. He met her halfway and enveloped her in a big hug.
He was a senior last year. He knows.
One day you are five years old waiting on the sidelines for instructions and orange slices. In a blink you are a senior with a captain’s band, endless memories, and a drive to score just one more goal, play one more game, but it is over.
They stood embracing, then he patted her back, then they turned and walked together toward the waiting crowd.
I went home and downloaded the photos I had taken. Stadium lights and rain don’t combine for stellar shots.
Still, in scrolling through the many photos I took that night of the girls playing a game they knew so well, I found one that stood out about the rest.
The girls are running together, rain streaming down, the scoreboard was not in their favor, and still they are laughing.
When people discuss youth sports: the time, the energy, the cost, the travel, the injuries and the injustice, it is common to be asked “is it worth it?”
I will think of this photo and think “yes.” This is what it’s all about.
It’s easy to focus on the “bad calls,” and the bad games, and the injuries, and the trash talking under your breath on the field.
When that all falls away, what matters is remembering that time it rained, and you lost, and you still had this much fun.
Dear Girlwonder, for 12 years in all weather, win, lose, or tie, I really have loved to watch you play.
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Third time I’ve read it, and it still makes me cry every time.