Monday, April 11, 2011

Falling In Love With…Soccer???

I used to hate soccer. Despised it, actually. The whole “minivan” and “coffee addict-soccer mom” stigmas overshadowed the thoughts that soccer was actually a real sport. That, and the fact that so many matches ended with such low scores and I really had no reason to watch it gave me little reason to think otherwise. It just never seemed as exciting as the big television sports of baseball, basketball and football.

As a sports fan, I’d always dreamed of cheering for my children someday when they played sports. Until recently, there hadn’t been anything to get too excited about (the tee-ball games and soccer games ages five through nine are mostly fun and exercise more than anything). But a year and a half ago, it finally began to get exciting. My oldest boy, Sawyer (now 12), was in a Youth Soccer League that included 6 other central Iowa teams: Gilbert, Nevada, Indianola, Knoxville, Urbandale and Altoona. He was finally at the age where they started to keep score and keep track of team records. The games actually meant something.

After losing the first game that year, the boys improved leaps and bounds every week. Other than a tie with a tough Knoxville team on the road, the Ballard boys didn’t lose another contest all season. With a record of 5-1-1, the Division title came down to the final game of the season—a rematch with Gilbert, the only team we had lost to. The boys won that contest to finish 6-1-1, and for the first time in my life, I was really excited about soccer.

Last season wasn’t quite as successful, with several of the boys from the previous year’s team graduating up to the next age level. There was talent, but they lacked experience and cohesiveness. This year though, the excitement is back. The boys have started the season 2-0, looking very impressive after a 10-1 victory on Sunday. It’s been really fun to watch a core group of kids stick together and mature into a cohesive unit this early into the season. It’s becoming obvious that if this group and the group ahead of them sticks together through high school that they could accomplish some really great things.

It’s amazing what happens to your interests in life when your kids are involved. The Ballard high school squad is currently ranked #9 in boys’ soccer. My son’s Youth 12 team plays a tough Perry squad this coming Sunday and I can’t wait to see how we do. Our little “right defender” is playing some good soccer with a great bunch of kids right now and for the first time in my life I can honestly say, “I’m loving soccer.”

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