This was our first season in the under 10 league, with 2 practices a week. That was kind of interesting as it tested the limits of attention, yet allowed the boys more time to interact with each other. The guys were closer at the end of the season than they were in the under 8 leagues (one practice a week) but that lead to me having more issues with control over the guys who were interested in goofing around instead of practicing. Our game results started to suffer later on in the year too – maybe correlated. Or it could have been that our leading scorer was out with a fractured wrist.
We did make it into the end of season tournament though.
Because a team just had to say they were interested in playing in the tournament.
The tourney was great. Practice was kind of a bear, due to daylight savings time, but our leading scorer was able to get his cast off and the team was happy to be together again.
Even though we lost our first two games pretty badly. We didn’t even score in the first game. Against the Blue Boogers even!
The second game brought tears to a mother’s eyes though, when she saw her son score his first goal. That right there made the whole season worth it to me.
Though in the third game, that same kid’s father brought his son over to me to say that his son felt like I was picking on him and he was too shy to tell me himself. We talked about why he felt like he was being picked on and I was able to spin it like the journalism teacher did to Jo in The Facts of Life. I’m pushing him to do more, because he’s able to do more. He’s faster than a lot of other kids – so he can get into more plays. Once we put it that way, he had a smile back on his face. Didn’t score again, but he had a smile on his face at least.
That third game was tense though. It was against a team that hadn’t lost all season. We were looking at our 3rd loss in 5 hours. Sal was a little bummed out before the game, using words like “suck” and “doomed” and “we”. But we had a long, private chat on the picnic benches a field away and when we came back, we were looking forward to giving it our best.
He was goalie for the first half. In the first quarter, somehow we scored first. On a play with an assist even. The parents were out of their seats for the rest of the game. It was fun.
Then a couple of minutes later, they’re putting pressure on us. Sal’s had trouble through the years, getting himself centered between the ball and the goal when it’s at an angle. It’s a difficult thing, to come out and still be blocking the goal behind you at an angle. And they were coming at an angle. And he was coming out of the goal mouth. And somehow, things bounced around a bit, and he was leaning to the side and then they shot…
…and hit him squarely in the ribs. A solid shot. The parents all gasped. But he crawled over to touch the ball and then didn’t move much. Some of the parents felt like it hit him in the head, but I was pretty sure it was the ribs. The ref stopped play and called me over. The parents had me wondering a bit as I came up to him. He was bawling into the grass. Motionless. I asked him if he got hit in the face or the ribs. He said the ribs.
So I picked him up, gave him a hug, told him he had a bunch of ribs, I wasn’t sure how many, but there was a lot of them, so he could go on. Put him on the ground and he was alright.
Then about 45 seconds later (he’ll say more like 20 – and neither of us really knows) they were putting pressure on us again, shot on goal from an angle, but Sal’s in place again. He takes this one right in the gut. Another gasp. Another keeling over. Another stoppage of play. I don’t know if the coach is supposed to be laughing on the way in, but this coach was doing it. It was just so fast and perfect. And another save. I was super proud of his performance and knew that it sucked getting hit like that. But the first hit didn’t scare him from the second one. That was the victory in my mind.
We had one guy on the bench. He wasn’t excited about it, but was willing to play goalie. Sal didn’t want to relieve him in the second quarter, so he was on the field. Sal got a foul called on him for pushing another kid in the back. The little dude was letting off a bit a steam! We went into the half up 2-0.
I was beside myself. This team hadn’t lost all season and they only tied once. To us. That game took me hours to relax afterwards. I was so pumped up. They weren’t used to being in that spot and they were falling apart. Now we were up 2-0 and they certainly weren’t used to that. We talked about how we couldn’t advance to the regional tourney in 3 weeks, since we lost our first two games, but we could send the Galaxy home if we beat them. The kids had something to play for.
And we did it. That guy that felt like I was picking on him? He kept coming back on defense and guarding the middle of the field, throughout the second half. And supporting our offense as well. He was all over the field. Our 2nd half goalie also made tremendous saves – diving after a few even. The whole team played that second half with a sense of confidence that no one would have guessed possible during the first two games. I was so proud of how these boys rallied and turned the day around for themselves. Hopefully, they got some life lessons out of it, cause things certainly were gloomy going into that third game.
That night I got an email from the tourney director that a few of the Galaxy parents were upset that they weren’t going on to the regional tourney. We know that made me smile even more…