Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Soccer Mom and Daughter

It has been one of those days. I feel like I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off (this is not another beheading theme, I promise). I have been playing Soccer Mom and driving The Boo all around southeast Michigan for soccer club tryouts. We just found out that she made one of the Michigan Hawks U14 teams. The Hawks (for the Soccer illiterates) are the #1 club in Michigan and #6 in the U.S. She's a goalkeeper. And I'm very very proud of her.

While watching her play in the various tryouts over the last week, I was thinking back to when I was serendipitously introduced to the sport of soccer. I was in college and this was prior to Title IX, so there were no women's sports at the college level. My sport was actually baseball anyway, and I remember contemplating an athletic career. Unfortunately, at the time there were few team sports that women could compete in. In high school I had trained in track events--I was good at jumping and short distances. Long distances were an ordeal. But I hated track and field events. I wanted to play on a team sport. I also didn't have the necessary determination to practice on my own in the individual track events. I stuck with it for a year, then quit.

One day I was jogging at a local park and saw some women teams playing soccer. This was unusual to say the least, so I stopped to watch. After a while, this middle-aged man came over and introduced himself to me as the coach of the team in red (the Cardinals). He had played pro soccer for a while and in retirement had set up the team to play in a newly formed league in California. We talked for a while and he suggested that I come out and train with the team. I told him I knew nothing about soccer, but he explained that none of the girls on the team had either 6 months ago. Well, I ended up going to the practice just to see what it was all about and discovered it was exactly what I had been looking for.

That was the beginning of my soccer career as a "semi-pro" athlete. It turned out I had some modest skill as a keeper, and I began to train four days a week, in the evening for 3 hours. After a month, I played in my first game.

I was kicked and trampled; muddied and bruised--but god help me, I loved it. I played with the team for two years until I went away to medical school in Los Angeles.

I wonder if my having been a keeper is what made the Boo interested in that position? Probably. She started playing when she was 6 years old and was intrigued that I knew about being a goalkeeper. She also liked getting to wear a special jersey. As she got a bit older, fewer and fewer girls wanted to play the goalie position. Not many girls her age enjoy being a goalie--it's intermittantly nerve-wracking and then boring; and far too easy to make a mistake and bear the burden of a loss.

But she's naturally bossy like I am, and telling people what to do seems to come easily to her--one quality of a good goalkeeper, who while a defensive player is also the player who initiates many offensive plays. And, if I'm honest, I will admit that she's a far better player at age 13, then I ever was as an adult. Her agility and speed surpassed my own meager skill a few years past.

She tells me she wants to be a professional soccer player. Her dedication and determination makes me feel a little awe, and not a little envious.

You know, I think she could make it.

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