Frankly, it was all a lot of fun because watching soccer is one of my favorite things. You can ask my daughter and measure the weight of those words by the drama with which she rolls her eyes. You see, Sloan hates watching soccer. Hate might be a bit strong, but it is the closest descriptor I can come up with to share her feelings about watching the game. Sloan was given the chance to stay at home with her grandparents for Regionals, but decided it would be more fun to go. Lisa wouldn't ever set time aside to watch a soccer game on TV, but she loves her son and frequently goes to great lengths to watch his games. But travel the world? Go out of your way, to sacrifice a good day of gardening to get a chance to watch the beautiful game? Not likely, unless Connor is playing. For Lisa, watching soccer is not anywhere near the "top ten things I could be doing right now" list. But, being the best mother she can be is number one. That said, there are lots of important things in life and soccer is right up there for me.
It's difficult to explain, but soccer has been a backdrop for some of the most significant lessons in my life. Some of my most cherished friendships have revolved around soccer. There is an immeasurable worldwide community of soccer playing friends out there waiting to be tapped into. The game has opened doors for me to meet new people, learn about them, and live their culture with some common perspective. Also, some of the most important lessons I have taught myself have come while participating in the game; never give up, always be learning, practice, honor, hard work and results, risk-reward, expect more from yourself, patience, balance... the list goes on. The emotion I experience while playing has also hit some highs. Running onto the ball brings more focus to me than anything. The human projectile shooting towards a round air filled target is so beautifully simple and athletic. Representative of the purest competition. Speed and power, mixed with a little grace and cunning. Then there's "the goal". Scoring a goal in competition is one of the best feelings, the culmination of effort and skill in the construct of a team is magical. I have never been faster or lighter on my feet than the second after the ball bends the back of the net. Sheer elation. You lose your mind for a few seconds. For the record, the scale of euphoric goals goes something like this; the first goal in the game ranks second, followed by the goal that ties the game in third. The most euphoric goal.... the go ahead goal after a tie. The go ahead goal might even be better if your team is the one that came from behind. Ask any kid who plays. They'll tell you, unless they're trying to be cool. Putting all the goal scoring and emotion aside, the most important aspect of the game for me goes back to community and friendships.
The sense of community around a team is really special. It is the longest lasting most gratifying part of any soccer season. There are so many facets of a team, from the players and the coach, to the parents and family supporting their team. In my life the community radiating out from around the team my son plays on is unique. The parents come from all walks of life some with soccer experience in the past, others with none. The special combination of parents raising their children in front of everyone, with the varied backgrounds and interests that collide on the road to tournaments and on the sidelines sends my mind into orbit. Some of the most gratifying conversations I have had occurred on the road, or at dinner, or at the hotel while on a soccer trip. It feels so good to get outside my head and get somebody else's perspective. When I get back home I feel like the world is full of opportunities and possibilities again. The friendships are invaluable. To recognize a face and see a smile is good medicine. This is manna from heaven for a forty-five year old guy. All because my son wants to be on a soccer team!? You couldn't ask for any better beginning than that.
If the richness of a person's life can be measured by the experiences and friendships they have had, then I consider myself very fortunate. I owe the U-15 Boys Strikers soccer community a humble and sincere thank you for this season and the experiences and friendships therein. Signing off, as coach would say, "Your friend in soccer".