Sunday, June 29, 2008

The next level

So, always before, my kids have played in the sort of sports leagues where you show up, pay a registration fee, and the kids are randomly assigned to a team, which is almost always coached by a volunteer dad or two. A little fresh air, a little exercise, snacks (which are the most important part of all, don’t you know that?) and if things go well, they learn a few things about whatever sport it is they’re playing.

For now, the sport of choice for my kids is soccer. This makes me a little bit sad, because soccer did not become immensely popular until AFTER I was young, which means I know nothing about the sport. I don’t know a sweeper from a keeper from a stopper from a striker, and I have no clue about the rules or regulations. I have no suggestions about how to help my kids get any better, and the one and only time I tried to practice outside with them I tripped while dribbling and fell flat on my face, in a style reminiscent of an America’s Funniest Home Videos moment. So pretty much, comic relief is all I’m good for.

I felt even more frustrated when we moved here and had to learn our way around a new soccer league. When Kellen wanted to sign up for spring soccer, I had no clue about the difference between a recreational team, traveling rec, academy, or competitive. I just sent in a registration form, and he wound up on a rec team with really great kids. We had casual, laid-back fun … just like we liked it. Except, they only won one game the entire season and he didn’t really learn anything or improve. But hey, snacks were good, so he was happy.

However, for this fall, I was told that he is too old to continue in that division and would have to move up. The coach I talked to at soccer camp a few weeks ago suggested he try out for a competitive team, simply because those teams are put together after a tryout, and he wouldn’t need to “find” a team to play on. As the mom of a “new” kid in the league, the prospect of cold-calling a bunch of volunteer dads and asking if they have a spot on their already put-together team for my son pretty much made me break out in hives …. So I suggested trying out for a competitive team to Kellen. Much to my relief, he agreed.

According to the league website, there would be two competitive tryouts. The first was last Thursday night, and we planned to go, but things just got hectic. We had been busy all week, and Kellen was tired, and he had piano and we barely had time to get across town, and we were meeting friends for dinner …… blah blah. Since there was a second tryout listed for Saturday morning, we decided to wait and go to that one instead.

Imagine my disappointment when I showed up with him Saturday morning, and found out that the tryout was actually two parts: Thursday evening AND Saturday morning. We had missed it. The coach suggested Kellen could try out just the one day, but unfortunately it was raining. As long as the lightening sensor rod-light-thingy at the complex center was blinking, which it was, no one would be allowed on the field. The coach told me both teams (Team A and Team B) had been pretty much put together on Thursday night, and the Saturday practice was just to put the finishing touches on the teams. He offered to take our name and number and let us come back to the first practice, so they could at least take a look at Kellen and see if they had any spots still left open.

I was bummed. Really bummed, on Kellen’s behalf. And a little annoyed, to be honest, that the two-part tryout wasn’t better explained on the website. Not that Kellen is some outstanding, shining star player … he’s not. Nobody points and laughs, either, but I’ll admit I was excited at the thought he might get selected for a competitive team, one with a paid coach, and trainer, and really start to improve in his skills. Now, he already had one strike against him by missing the first tryout, and it looked like thanks to the weather, he wouldn’t even get a chance.

Suddenly, the sun came out. The blink-y lightening rod thing stopped blinking, and the boys, most of who had already been placed on one of the two teams, took the field. And as I sat in my van and watched the boys, I knew we had blown our chance by missing the first day of tryouts. These boys were already comfortable together, and already knew what the coaches wanted them to do. And I got more and more upset, and discouraged, and annoyed, the longer I sat there. “It’s not fair!” I wanted to say. How are new league members supposed to know the ins and outs of how teams are formed? I can even admit that at that point, I was basically pouting. I could tell by watching that Kellen wasn’t as good as some of the other boys … better than several, but not all. And the other boys had a definite advantage in that they all seemed to know one another, and would shout a team-mates name before making a pass. And I sat there and just got crankier and crankier that we had missed out due to our “newbie” status. (still pouting at that point.)

Just then, a dad walked over to his son, who was playing goalie. And in front of all the other parents, he started berating his son for not doing his goal kicks properly, and not having a good form. And the dad was sort of gesturing with his arms, and getting upset, and finally said, really loudly, “You just need to remember how important these tryouts are if you want to get picked for a team!” And the boy took a defensive stance and sounded exasperated and frustrated when he said, “I know, Dad!”

And in that instant I realized how ugly I was acting, and stopped pouting. Who gives a shit if Kellen gets picked for a team? This is supposed to be FUN, no matter what age the kids are. Even if yes, the skill level is getting a little more competitive, I refuse to be one of those parents who wants it more than my kid does. More specifically, I don’t ever want to be *that* dad, and take it personally. If Kellen didn’t get picked, so be it. He could play for a church league, or we’d find some other recreational league. But in that instant, my attitude did a complete reversal. Whatever happened, would happen, and we were going to Sonic afterwards to buy a chocolate shake and celebrate the fact he tried out at all.

A few minutes later, the team assistant walked over to my van, smiling. “Coach wants to offer your son a spot on the “B” team”, she said. “You can think about it, because it’s a pretty big commitment. Fall soccer, spring soccer, indoor arena soccer in the winter, and trainer fees every month. That’s in addition to registration fees, practice uniforms, and game uniforms.”

“No need to think about it,” I said, smiling from ear to ear, “We’re in.”

“Good,” she replied, her voice dropping to a conspiratorial whisper, “My son’s on the B team too, and we’ve got all the fun, laid back parents. It’s going to be a great year.” And I filled out the registration form, wrote her a check, and she walked off.

A few minutes later the tryouts ended. Kellen came to the van, noticeably dejected. He managed to wait until he got inside before starting to cry. Not big, puffy crybaby tears, but the kind of 10-year old boy tears that squeeze out from under tightly clenched eyelids … the “I’m trying really hard not to cry” kind of crying.

“What’s the matter, buddy? What’s wrong? Didn’t you have fun?” I asked.

“I didn’t get picked,” he said in a small voice, “Coach didn’t ask me to be on the team. He called me over to the bleachers, and asked if I wanted to be on his team, but then he never said anything else to me, so that means I didn’t get picked.”

“Kellen,” I said, barely able to contain my excitement, “You DID get picked! They came over and talked to me … you’re on one of the teams!”

Instead of being pleased, or surprised, he was still upset. “I don’t think I want to play with those boys,” he said, “they’re too rough, and they take it too seriously. They want to win no matter what.”

And I sat there for a second, and realized how very much alike my son and I are. He is not an aggressive, no-holds-barred, leave-it-all-on-the-field kind of kid. He likes the sport; he enjoys playing. And he'll be the first to tell you it's a lot more fun when you win. But if he accidentally knocks a competitor down, he wants to extend a hand to help them back up. If he accidentally falls down himself, he wants to be able to laugh about it before getting back up. He still wants the snacks after the game. Yes, there’s something to be admired about kids who are committed, determined, and competitive. But I also think there’s something to be admired about kids who still think having fun is a top priority.

And I took a few moments to explain to my son what it means to be on a “B” team --- how the boys are still good, and want to get better, and will work really hard to improve, but don’t have a win-at-all-costs mentality. And Kellen smiled, and seemed very relieved.

I think it’s going to be a perfect fit for our family. And I couldn’t be happier.


Anonymous said...

Kellen's my hero!

Anne in GA

Anonymous said...

Hey Kristie - coming out of lurker status again. I thought "been there, done that" during this post. All 3 of my kids (2 boys, 1 girl) have played rec. soccer and moved up to competitive soccer and all 3 have been on both an A team and B team over the years. The B team has always been more fun with far less pressure put on the kids so congratulations to Kellen
(and hopefully the goalie with the crummy father made the other team - parents are usually the ones who ruin the team)
- Linda in NJ

Denise Tidwell said...

Congrats Kellen! Soccer is the bomb...Haley plays competitively as well and loves it. We just finished watching Spain beat Germany 1-0 on tv. Glad to hear you're on the team. "B" stands for the best you know!! What is your mascot? Haley's team is Concorde Fire, but she used to be on AFC Lightning. Now I have to get used to yelling "Go Fire!" instead of "Go Lightning"! Are the girls playing too? Take care.

Grandma J said...

That's a great kid you have there! Congratulations Kellen!

Jeri from Hawaii said...

WOW - I'm really proud of BOTH you and Kellen! I could just see myself sitting and pouting about how unfair things were...but the Dad we all hate quickly brought you back to reality and a focus on what is really important. While I am sure there is a place in the world for agressive, competitive, sports players I truly believe it is the gentle souls like Kellen that make this world a better place.

Hopefully the girls will find a place where they can be happy to.


PS What ever happened to Soccer camp? Did you let the kids bail out after they found out it was actually work?

CAT said...

Aww Kristie,

That is such a great story! I am so happy for Kellen, I bet he is going to love it and he is going to meet a whole new group of friends, how exciting for him.

Take care,


lizinsumner said...

Way to go Kellen - I just know you'll shine in your new team. And way to go Kristie for refusing to compromise and for not being one of those obnoxious team parents!!

momto2boys said...

That's awesome that he got on the fun "B" team. My oldest is very cerebrial...always thinking. He likes sports for the fun of it, but he's not a die hard. I am competitive and must admit I had hoped (initially) he would be too...until I saw one of the really outstanding athletes on one of my son's team in summer school...really really struggling. Reality hit me hard in the face...sports are for fun for my long as he's happy and trying his best that's whats important.

Anonymous said...

YAY Kellen!! I am so happy for the entire Escoe family. Soccer rocks & so do all of you!!

Leeann said...

I so, so, so agree with you.

I have yanked my kid and had him put on another team when he got put on a team with a "win at all costs" mentality. And sure enough, over the course of two years, that coach has gotten a rep throughout the whole league for being a royal asshat.

These are CHILDREN and they are PLAYING sports. 99% of them will not go on to play at the college level or beyond.

I'm with the two of you, all the way!


Eloise said...

Congratulations to Kellen! I hope he has a fun, enjoyable season. I especially agree with the other commenter in hoping that the goalie with the mean father signed with another team.

We've just gone through hockey tryouts this weekend with my son. He's now 16 and we've been through this so many times, but I'm still amazed at some of the parents and the games they play trying to get their son on the "best" team. Our only goal is for our son to have a good time, to enjoy the sport, to make some nice friends and to get to play. We much prefer that he is a contributor on an average team than a benchwarmer on a superstar team featuring too many parents and kids with illusions of grandeur.


jbaj said...

Sports at this age NEED to be fun! Oh my gosh - I completely agree with you. My youngest played flag football and got pretty far in the playoffs. One of our final games (that we won) was against a team that SCOUTED our 6-8 year old PEE WEE flag football team. Color coordinated and those parents were horrible to their kids.

Sports are so good for kids - especially if they have the right coach. The teamwork and time management they learn (especially in high school) is priceless.

Congratulations Kellen! Have fun this year and you will - and enjoy your team!

Lisa from Texas and now GA again said...

You know, Kristie that in spite of your oft times critiquing and criticizing of your parenting, you really are a fabulous mom! You have a healthy perspective, you admit when you screw up and you make sure your kids know what is important. I do not know if it is surviving cancer...twice with family members, moving all over the country as an Air Force family,being a surrogate mom or a combination of all of it. But, you are a great mom and role model to many of us (and my kids are 15 and 13)but I am learning from you. I know you are not into bragging on yourself...well except for that triathlon I hope some of the self-deprecating is for humor etc because the fact is YOU ROCK as a mom. You are keeping your kidlets grounded and teaching them to laugh at themselves which are skills that too many parents skip in rearing kids. Those skills will serve them well in adult life...look how they have served you. STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP and enjoy the ride.

The Running Girl said...

Ahhhh, the joys of competitive soccer. Dalton has played on Academy teams the past couple of years and tried out this year for select. And just like there, the tryouts were listed as two days, but the teams were really formed that first night. Actually, I think the teams were formed BEFORE the first night, but that's a different story. And it is hard to teach them how to be competitive, but "nice". Luckily, Dalton has had a coach the past two years that emphasized playing your best over winning, so that's really not an issue. Best of luck with the new team.

Anonymous said...

Congatulations Kellen! You'll be amazed how far those skills will come!

We did our first year of Club soccer this year with two of my kids. The older one has wanted to play for years but the team for his age has always been played last year, you get a spot. It really sucked! So finally this year, they had a couple of openings and he was in. Jeni's is a new team and they "scouted" her out during basketball and asked her to play with them (the other girls all go to the same school/daycare/church. Jen is the outsider!). Both kids have awesome coaches with the right attitude. We all had a great time and I can't wait for next year already!


Alisa said...

Isn't that just the best when not only is it a good fit for your kid, but the family as well? We've lucked out on the last couple of baseball teams for that. Keep having fun Kellen and Congrats!

Miscellaneous From Missy said...

I'm glad you guys got the B team! :-)

Pam said...

Great job Kellen!!!!

I am so excited that you made the team!

Pam Porter www/ said...


I am so glad that Kellen made the team. My daughter Alex ( basically was on the B team all of her competitive soccer career (LOL) until she had the back surgery gone wrong.

One great thing about competetive soccer is that everyone (ie, parents!) are a bit more dedicated. That way you know that the snack parents will be there!

Once your kids get a little older, you might look into having them ref games. Its pretty good money for a kid. Here in GA, i think that they have to be 12. They have to take a class ($30 when my kiddos took it).

Speaking of soccer and reffing, we were in your old stomping ground, Macon, Spring 2006 for a tournament. It was hot!!!!!

Cumming, GA

Stacie from MN said...

Way to go Kellen!
Kristie, if it makes you feel better, you know a lot more than I do about soccer! Our soccer is just a 6 week rec program. What I know about the positions is that there are the kids who get to run the whole field, some that only stay on their half & some that only stay on the other half, plus a goalie. I've tried, but in all honesty, I just don't enjoy watching Cameron's soccer games as much as Tyler's baseball & football games...those I "get"!

Tracey in Calgary said...

Welcome to the world of 'competitive' sports. It only gets worse as they get older (sorry, I know that sounds jaded but after 8 years in competitive hockey and seeing a lot of 'psycho' parents, it's hard not to be!! lol) ...that being said, I am sure Kellen is going to have an AWESOME time on the B team, CONGRATS!!, and you guys have a great attitude, which is the most important thing :-) Way to go, Kellen, I can't wait to hear all about your soccer adventures to come!