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Defining Moments (1 Viewer)

DonovanMD

Senior Member
I coach boys soccer two to three times a week. These are mostly thirteen and fourteen year olds and they're a terrific team. We're 11-2-1 on the season and second only to an undefeated team in the top tier, who we have only played once so far and lost 5-4 to. I have such an awesome group of kids and supportive parents, I really feel proud coaching them and getting to know each of them. Getting to see them grow up even a little bit over the course of a season.

I just wrote two paragraphs and deleted them. I had comments about a number of players who stand out in my mind, I wrote something breaking down the team and then decided I didn't like it. I can only describe these kids to you, I cant show you or paint a picture like I can with some imaginary character. I have 17 kids on my team, and while 16 of them aren't related to me, they all feel like family. I'm only twenty and I feel like a proud father watching them make plays and mistakes on the field every Monday and Wednesday. I've gotten so wrapped up in the team and the games, it's like I'm at the Stanley Cup Finals, or cheering the Eskimos during the Grey Cup. Boys 14 and under soccer has consumed me more than pro sports, which as an absolute sports freak, is odd to me.

But I watched tonight as we lost a game and really felt heart break for them. We made a lot of mistakes, we literally beat ourselves against a team that isn't as talented, but had more heart. This wasn't just some regular game or regular loss, it was more. I cant really put my finger on what it was, but it was.

The Kilkenny team tied us our first game of the season. We beat them 5-2 a couple weeks ago. And their coach is someone you love to hate. An old fucking asshole who yells at his kids, makes an ass of himself and still struts around like he can cure lepers by pissing on them. I had a confrontation with him last game where he and a father of one of my kids were arguing over a call for a good two minutes. I stepped in and said, "Guys, shut up", but quietly and discreetly. The old guy turned and made a scene during the game, saying to me, "Don't you tell me to shut up! I've been around this game a long time."

"Yeah, since it was invented," I remarked loud enough so his own kids and parents could laugh at him. He continued ranting and I added that, "You'd think someone who's lived through three centuries would know how to act his age."

Needless to say there isn't good blood between our teams.

So tonight our kids went out after slaughtering a team 12-1 on Monday and bombed. They weren't running, they were getting beat to loose balls, they gave it away far to often. Basically it wasn't smart soccer. It was 4-1 ten minutes into the 80 minute game. Our only goal came off of a goal by a kid named Gordon. A small but hard nosed kid who always seems to score the dirty goals. Chip in the shots when everyone's diving for it in front, he doesn't score pretty goals. He's a midfielder who helps out on offence and defence. In other words, he works hard. My kind of kid.

A few minutes after Kilkenny scores to make it 2-1, the ref blows it down a slide by Gordon where he didn't make contact with the ball and knocked a kid over. A Kilkenny kick. Gordon was pissed. He made a comment I later learned was criticizing the refs call, and he swore. Swearing on the field at that age is an automatic red card. The referee went easy and yellowed him and Gordon turned and walked away. The ref called for him and Gordon replied with something along the lines of "yeah, yeah, I got a yellow card, I get it!". The ref gave him a second yellow card. Two yellows is an ejection. As Gordon walked off he made more comments and was obviously upset. The ref halted the game and told him to leave the field and change out of his uniform and he would not continue the game until he did.

Gordon didn't have a set of clothes and as he came off he was so upset, holding back tears which eventually let go as he hugged his sister. I wanted to go over and say something to Gordon, but my commitment has to be to the team. Gordon left the field and didn't return. With a red card, we now only play with 9 players to the other teams 10.

The team fell apart, letting in two atrocious goals. And at half time these kids who were normally the closest of friends, were bickering, calling each other out for their play and worst of all criticizing the goalie. I didn't really know what to say. The goalie came to me with tears in his eyes and asked me to put in our back up so he could play out. I asked if he could finish the game, and he nodded. Sure, he said.

I didn't say much at half. These aren't little kids. These are young men. At 14 they don't sit and eat orange slices. They're mostly in grade eight and nine, and looking at their faces they all felt disappointed. Winning means a lot to them, and though some of the weaker kids have to get in for a shift here and there because its community league soccer, they usually support them and work extra hard when someone who isn't as good is on the field.

"First of all," I said at half time, as 17 faces looked up at me, "Enough getting on Dustin. When he digs a ball out of our net, that means its gotten past every man on this field. I don't care what the score is, I don't ever want to see you guys arguing on the field. We're a man down now, so if you weren't running hard before, you'd better be now. The guys who step up and show me they want to play, will play the second half. I'm looking at a very good team who played a very bad half. The second has to be better or we'll end up being embarrassed. I need to see more guys."

It was at half time I realized Gordon hadn't stayed to watch from a distance, he'd gone home. I knew already, and the word had spread amongst the kids, why Gordon had missed our previous game on Monday. His dad was in the hospital, he'd had a heart attack the day of the game. And while he was still in the hospital Gordon's sister had drive him over so he wouldn't "let the guys down", she had said to me. No wonder the boy had lost his temper. His emotions must be going like crazy. I really felt bad now. I knew the kids saw it as well, they whispered about Gordon and the red card, our first of the season.

As the second half unfolded I saw some things that interested me. The normally chatty and witty Mohammed L at midfield, the mouth piece who can make you laugh as well as get on your nerves, was unusually quiet. He's a team leader, a kid who naturally gives orders. I moved him to defence in the middle and he started shouting directions at the kids around him and playing his heart out, a bit more than usual.

I saw Adam, the six foot tall and lanky center, our team captain, urging the kids on. He played one of his worst games ever, but he was always talking, telling everyone "three goals is nothing if we work hard enough."

I watched Mike, the fast and very smart defenceman make great play after great play in front of out goalie, helping give Dustin his confidence back. On one corner kick in the offensive zone I called Mike all the way up the field to kick the corner and he landed it right on the foot of Servesh, our speedy winger we call Gumby because of his agility. Gumby scored. When he scores, he normally does a back flip and gets the biggest grin on his face. Its his trade mark thing. But he just walked back to mid field, he didn't even smile.

I watched as the six substitutes stood on the sidelines and cheered their team, playing a man short the entire game, and not asking who's next sub, or when can I play? But really wanting, desperately, to win the game, even if they weren't on the field.

I saw Mohammed H, the right winger, our best player, as he deked through literally 5 kids only to lose it in front of the net, again and again. He was trying to beat the team on his own and failing. But with one minute to go, he made one of the most amazing plays I've ever seen. He took a header and laid it in front of himself and stopped it with his foot. He then flipped the ball up into the air and headed it over one defencemans shoulder and took off around him, and then pushed it through the legs of another defenceman before scoring a goal top shelf over the farside of the goalie. Even the ref clapped. It was absolutely amazing.

Mohammed H's goal cut the score to 4-3. A moment later the ref ended the game and the boys walked off the field, most with heads hung, disappointed. But as we gathered for out post game talk, and they crowded around uninterested and upset, most not listening, one kid said something.

Calvin, our utility man who can play any position and an excellent athlete, said in a voice far more chipper than I could muster, "Hey guys, come on, are all your shoe laces untied or something? We won the second half two to nothing. We did it with a guy less too. What are you all moping about?"

I smiled and a couple kids chuckled, most still looked upset.

Adam stands taller than everyone, but they look up to him for a different reason. He added, "Yeah guys, we did our best. We'll see them in the tournament again and show em. We just have to be better next time."

And what impressed me most was Dustin, our goalie. He stood up from where he was crouched and said, "Thanks guys, good second half. Especially in front of the net."

I didn't have much else to say after that. I added simply, "You guys had a hell of a second half. Remember this feeling."

They all nodded and marched off to their waiting parents, no one crying or anything, that's for pussies and kids! But as I took down the netting on the goals, I watched as 17 kids walked off the field and realized I almost don't remember what its like to be a kid. I almost forgot how much I hated losing and not getting my way. For the first time all year there was no joking or laughing after the game, and not because we lost, but because every kid had one of those character building moments that makes them all the better for experiencing it. I saw many of them take one small step of a million on the road to becoming a man.

I saw far more from them in that loss than in any win we've had. I'm 100 times prouder of them now than I was before the game. This was a good loss. Because ten years from now nobody will remember the score of some community league boys soccer game.
 

EmuJenkins

Senior Member
You write excellent stories that are easy to read and leave you with a messege at the end. I could really relate to this story and felt nostalgia for when I was about 13. Great job.
 

damien_frosst

Senior Member
As always, very well done, and easy to get wrapped up in. You're always doing such good work on these things, that it's hard to find faults to criticize.

About the only thing I could even think of criticizing is the use of sports terms being difficult for the uninitiated (and you've done a good job explaining things in there anyway). Still, it's an article about soccer, so there's an expectation for it to mention terms from that sport. So, I guess this is less a criticism than a comment.

Good work!
 

Wyndstar

Senior Member
story

This is a good read. It's full of heart and more than a little acerbic wit. I can't say that its made me a fan of soccer, but I am impressed at the people skills it seems to require. You conveyed that extremely well, and quite enjoyably.
 
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