There is a special, for lack of a more appropriate word, feeling one can find playing against a team of girls from the local high school. My soccer team didn't have a game scheduled yesterday, so we met to practice at the local AYSO fields where some of us coach and some of our kids play. At the same time, the high school team was practicing. They agreed to scrimmage with us for a bit, though neither team was complete. With the loan of one of our players to play keeper, they had eight players to our eight, so the sides were mostly even.
I admire those girls mostly for getting in our faces and not backing down in the least. I have to doubt that they very often play against a team quite like us, but they didn't show any sign that they cared. The single fault I could find with this team would be with their strikers. They weren't great at timing their shots and didn't put the power into most of their shots. With a little work in timing and power, they could easily have burned us. As it was, we and they were pretty evenly matched.
I took a few spills here and there. Some of it was my usual inability to stay on my feet (I'm a slide tackling fool), but I have to think that some of it was trying not to hurt the girls, trying not to be as physical as I would be against adults. I found myself contorting oddly on occasion trying to keep some semblance of not being overly physical or aggressive. My payment for this is to feel like they dropped me in a sack and threshed the grain with me. The scary moment of the day ended up being the least painful. I kicked the crap out of one of their girls, but the kick was one of those freaks moments of soccer. She had passed the ball a moment before my foot came in, and I kicked the very bottom of her cleats with the top of my foot. I'm doubt she even noticed, though I was certain for a moment that I had to have done some damage to myself. Apparently I'm okay though as the foot doesn't hurt at all today.
Typically, in our regular games, I don't care about gender. Getting on the field basically erases that, though in my mind, it only applies to adults. Playing against those much younger girls, I felt a little protective. Certainly I want to win, but even against adults I don't want to win at the expense of other players' safety. Now make that team the smaller and younger one from yesterday, and make all but two of them girls, and I find I try harder to be cool to them than to beat them. As we played they demonstrated that this wasn't a concern to them, so I slowly played a little tougher.
It's always great to be on the field, no matter who you end up playing. The day was perfect for soccer, mostly cloudless, temperatures in the very low seventies. The game wasn't overly serious and everyone seemed to have fun. Their coach was on the field with them, and compared to the other coach I've mentioned in a previous post, she was a joy to be around. She seemed to respect her team as people. Instead of shouting commands and micromanaging, she spoke loudly enough to be heard and gave advice. She wasn't telling them what to do, but she was telling them the best option in a given situation. She spoke like a cross between a good coach and a good keeper.
Aside from the feeling that I got beat up by girls, I had a great time yesterday. Meaningless games for practice and fun are always more fun than league games where we care about our standings. I'd like to think that playing against us, though we didn't really force them to play that hard, had to have been good for them on some level. I have to think that situations like this can show the girls that their being girls isn't always a factor. We weren't boys and girls yesterday. We were all soccer players, no more, no less. I feel that, if they took nothing else away from the game, that would be good for them to see.