Today's soccer game was the absolute epitome of a rough game, but it was also a game we could have won.
I haven't really discussed soccer in a while, and part of that is just the general writing malaise, but part of it is the injustice of this season. I've had a roster of ten at an age level at which they play eleven on a side. My team has played a person down each game this season, and last week saw us playing two down.
I'm not going to write a post bitching about the unfairness of it all. I don't know how the kids on the team feel about it, though they have to see the unfairness. The thing is they don't seem affected by it. They go out every week and give everything they have. They take it and turn around and keep trying. Even on the roughest day playing against a team with seven subs they didn't stop. Even when one of my girls told me she just couldn't run anymore she turned around and kept going.
Today was especially rough. We once again had nine players show, and the opposing team was nice enough to play only ten, so it was a little even. It was still an all boys team versus my coed, and while I feel like that can't help but be a factor you wouldn't think it has any bearing when you see my two girls play. Also, I don't want to suggest that my female players are any less capable than their male teammates or any of the boys they've played against this season.
I should mention here that I'm not the overly comptetive coach that some coaches are. I do want to win, and I do want my team to win, but more than that I want them to learn the game and to fall in love with the game, to have fun. If they've given everything they have to give then I'm satisfied, and I'm proud.
I also make a point throughout the season starting with the very first practice to let them know my priorities regarding injuries. My list of things I need them to know are true is that it is just a game, that they are always more important than the game and that their safety and health are more important than the game.
One of the girls entered the game with a minor hamstring issue. I kept an eye on her and whenever I was able I asked her how she was doing. She's tough and spent too much of the game fighting for the ball often against two opponents at once. Another of my players also pulled his hamstring slightly while playing defense, then in the second half after being moved to goal keeper he stopped a shot that bent his hand too far back but didn't do any damage beyond hurting.
And then a defensive player went down and didn't get up. As the players on the field took a knee I jogged across to check on him. He stayed down for a few more moments and actually apologized for, "letting you down." I could almost cry sitting here now thinking about it. Of course I immediately let him know that he in no way let me down.
He insisted that he could play as he got to his feet and took a tentative couple of steps. He was wobbling and unable to put any weight on the knee but insisted he could play. If I'd let him he would have tried and would have made the injury worse, so I had to tell him no. Even then he tried to walk off the field by himself until he finally realized that he did need my shoulder just then.
My team got back into the game and, if anything, began to play even harder. We'd entered the final quarter when I lost another player.
It was my girl with the hamstring pull, and this time I ran onto the field. I knew immediately it was gonna be bad, and as I reached her I saw she was crying. She'd hit the ground and was covered in grass. The referee and I knelt next to her and took her hands. We helped her to calm down and start breathing normally while her mom also arrived to help.
The game was over. I couldn't ask any more of these guys at this point. We were down enough goals that we couldn't come back, and this was just the last straw.
We have a week off for fall break. I think we could all really use the time off. I told them that practice is sorta optional because of fall break but that I'd be there even if we only screw around and have fun rather than actually practice. But then that's one of the beauties of soccer that even when you're just messing around you're somewhat practicing.
We might have lost on goals, but I and all the parents won by watching the heart and determination we saw in our kids. I hope that my team got the win of having persevered in spite of the blows they took, that they learn to keep fighting no matter what. And I want every single one that is eligible back on my team next season.