Anthropology of Three

The Very Prettiest of Views

0 Comments 14 November 2013

In my eyes, soccer is about presence. About trying something. About trying something new when you have safely mastered something else.

Soccer is about the earth and the sky. The effort and the joy. The beauty of the moment.

I feel an almost magical nostalgia about soccer, a passion shared around the globe, an absorbing and tangible beacon of togetherness. Unbeknownst to us, I growing up in Bulverde and Shervin in Houston, soccer was a common companion to our best ordinary days.

Soccer has faithfully traveled with me through the years, through my father’s stories, through my youth watching my little brother and inhaling the sweet Bulverde air into memory, through the one season I played in the fall semester of my eighth-grade year, through the years I wished to be a soccer mom myself, through the empty field we pass every Sunday and say Daddy played soccer there, and finally now through our children’s Saturday mornings.

From this fall season, our first YMCA soccer season, one particular Monday night practice will travel on through the years of my life, Shervin’s life, and I hope, our son’s life.

Falling dark before 5:30 p.m., the clocks having been turned back over the weekend, it was the kind of misty cold evening that makes you aware Thanksgiving is near, ushering in the most wonderful time of the year.

For this one special practice, the last practice of the YMCA 5s season, Coach Daddy had planned a player versus parent scrimmage. I had not expected to play.

Although Baby #1 understood that his little sisters need my attention sitting on the bleachers, the girls were too cold in the damp air  and pleaded to go inside to the staff-supervised Kids Zone.

Shervin encouraged me, “Go ahead and take them inside. We may never have another night like this again in our lives. The stadium lights are on and we can play soccer together on a field at night with our five-year-old boy.”

Zipping my jacket and warming my hands, I returned to the field where only two other mothers and one father had joined Shervin. As we began to play, I momentarily worried that I would slip on the wet grass in my regular tennis shoes, that I would feel awful scoring on a young child, or that I would not play very well at all.

In seconds, we were all carried away in the game. Having stood still for a moment to look at me, Baby #1 ran to cover me in defense. I maneuvered around his increasingly sophisticated feet and made a swift kick toward the goal, the ball lifting from the ground. The shot was much better than I expected, almost going in, just skimming the top bar of the miniature goal.

The other father of a little boy shouted from the parents’ goal, “Woah, going for the top shelf!”

Shervin called to Baby #1, “Wow, Momma’s good.”

Although usually playfully competitive with the team, Shervin kept a distance on the field to watch our son and me. He approached without regard for getting to the ball.

“No, really, Sarah. I’m not just saying it. I did not realize you had such good moves. You should join a league or something.”

I did not say a word, at once feeling like he was completely wrong and that I might actually look into it.

Baby #1 was nearly out of breath from running and simultaneously giggling, perhaps in pure shock that I could play with some remote level of skill. The truth is I never played much actual sports growing up, never tried out for a team, never would have been considered the athletic type.

I only ever dabbled in this realm, the sports of basketball, soccer, tennis, running, and dancing. Yet, there is something in me, something I see very much in him, that always enjoyed finding the essence of an exercise, the precise movement that sinks a three pointer, skirts around a defender, serves an ace, runs a faster mile, or perfects choreography.

It is the kind of kinesthetic sense that makes me wonder what I might have been capable of mastering, had I simply tried something beyond dance or even simply pursued dance more fully. It is the kind of thing that makes people laugh and marvel just a little when it emerges, like the time I reluctantly joined a flag football game in college and somehow intercepted the ball, causing buddies to tease Shervin, still in the courting phase, for letting me catch it. He always said that he honestly had not.

In a way it actually is somewhat humorous, and completely amazing, to marvel at what is truly possible when we give ourselves a chance.

As long as it is at all possible, I will take these moments as a mother to participate and try things in the presence of our children.

After all, it is mostly in how we speak to our children, treat them, and demonstrate ourselves to them that they form a distinct impression of themselves. I want them to have the very best yet humble impression of themselves, so I will humbly give them the best of me.

This first fall season of soccer for our family has been a blessing beyond the goals, saves, and wins, residing mostly within all the many ordinary joys, shared with people we love and who love us and our children.

In her first athletic pursuit beyond ballet, Baby #2 shined as a team player, learned you can keep playing even if you fall down, mothered teammates when they fell too, held her little girlfriends’ hands, practiced ballet in the open field, and stopped several goals in her favorite position as goalie.

In his departure from his passionate game of basketball, Baby #1 felt the shocking difference of intensity between practice and a real game, learned a new set of dribbling skills and the amount of work required to score just one point, ran and played his heart out in all the games, and, to his personal standard of excellence, scored many goals.

In her patient and observant way, Baby #3 was the sweetest little spectator. Watching her brother, sister, and father, she usually wandered onto the field for a brief moment of every game. Never feeling content to sit for long in the stroller, she picked flowers, found leaves, circled the orange flags, and eventually started kicking around the spare soccer balls.

Between games, we returned home for warm nourishment at what the children call Momma’s café. Before rushing back for Baby #1’s game, Baby #2 traded her jersey and cleats for a skirt and Mary Janes, pleased to transform back to cheerleader.

Baby #3 is still our baby, sucking her beloved pappy, still in diapers, and napping in the afternoon, but one day all too soon she will join in and play as well.

In his deeply devoted way, Daddy coached with love, giving our children something rare and good to look up to, inspiring the other parents, thanking them for their commitment to their children, and creating lifelong memories for all of us. In a humble way, he has admitted that the act of coaching young children has reoriented his thinking, renewing the values he learned in grade school, values of kindness and sportsmanship, emphasis on what really matters.

In the huddle for the last game of the YMCA 5s New England team, he said to the children, “Guys, we have won four games in a row. This is our last game and I really want to win today. I really do. But I really want you all to play hard and play your best. If you do that, I don’t care if we win or lose. I am happy with you all doing your best. You all have always played soccer the right way. I am proud of you all.  Let’s go out there and have some fun.”

And they played. They played their very hardest against a very good team. Baby #1 scored a goal early in the first quarter, and the other team tied in the fourth quarter. The clock stretched into an hour of play, almost constant running and footwork. As all of the other game fields cleared for the day and equipment was neatly set aside, the referee called the final play, ending the game in a tie. Both sides having played their hearts out, there was no loser that day. And we were glad.

Watching these precious faces, witnessing their real growth, sharing their pure joy, I know that I especially have had the very prettiest of views.

YMCA Soccer 2013

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