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Soccer Parents

I couldn't find a good soccer song, so I settled on this slightly cheesy tune that can make even the most masculine father choke up a little. Apparently, Darius Rucker, former lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish, is now considered a country singer.

We just had a strange weekend. My younger daughter’s first ever soccer team was in an end-of-the-year tournament, so we were guaranteed to have two games on Saturday and at least one on Sunday. If her team did well and advanced to the semifinals, we might end up playing two additional games on Sunday. I had some conflicting feelings. My rational self wanted her team – and especially her personally - to do well, but not well enough to advance. After all, I did not want the entire weekend eaten up with soccer games. But then the games started, and my emotional self took over. So as I found myself yelling, jumping up and down, and exhorting her team to victory, it became clear that it is impossible to root against your child. This episode, then, can be added to a long list of irrational behavior carried out on behalf of my kids. It was more evidence that the state of parenthood can be classified as a mild form of insanity.

After winning two of the first three games, we advanced to the semifinals on Sunday afternoon. Her team outplayed the opponent, but the game ended in a one-one tie. The game then proceeded to one of the most unjust procedures in sports: penalty kicks. Five different players per team get one shot each, and most goals wins. For the first time, my wife got to experience what I feel when watching a Laker playoff game. Luckily for us, the other team relied heavily on a couple of great players. So after those two made their goals, the rest of their team missed. Three of our kids scored, so it was on to the finals.

My daughter would now have a chance to play a night game under the lights. And to make things more interesting, it rained pretty heavily off and on throughout the game. In the first half, there were a few close calls, but neither team was able to score. Then, in the third quarter, the other team managed to punch one through. I figured that this was the beginning of the end. Our girls were looking tired. It was, after all, their third game of the day and fifth of the weekend. But then, halfway through the fourth quarter, one of our best players managed to get a ball past the goalie from an almost impossible angle. Suddenly, there was hope again, but that would be the last goal of the day. Believe it or not, it was another one-one tie. This time, because it was the championship game, they decided to play a sudden death overtime period. Five minutes were played, and it was still a tie. Now if this was earlier in the day, it wasn’t raining, and there wasn’t another team waiting to play their championship game, then they might have played more overtimes with various scenarios that would make a goal more likely. But time had run out, so it was time for more penalty kicks. Believe it or not, each team made four of their five shots. So now it was sudden death penalty kicks involving the players who were not as good. Our sixth kicker barely missed, and the other team’s made it, and it was finally over.

So as this epic battle raged, I could not help standing there in the rain wondering what the hell we were doing. I was cold, wet, and my feet hurt from a whole day of standing and screaming. The kids, of course, had to be in more pain than I was. And yet, at the same time, as I watched those little girls playing their hearts out in the mud, I couldn’t help thinking, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” This was clearly a game – and a day - that we will remember for the rest of our lives. And hopefully, both of our daughters will have fond memories of their parents standing and yelling, hour after hour, rain or shine.
After a game and weekend like this, it was hard to see any player in this game as a loser. In sports, however, even with seven and eight-year olds, there can be only one official winner. But even the most chronically hyper-competitive parent had to take pride in the performance of everyone involved. After the game, there was a little ceremony where everyone received her first and second-place medals. And as my daughter carefully clutched her little medal under her jacket in order to make sure that it didn’t get wet, I knew that she would be looking forward to the next soccer season. Hopefully, she doesn’t expect to play in a championship game every year. Games like that don’t come along very often. That is probably a good thing. I don’t know if I could take it.

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