Thursday, August 21, 2008

Making The Cut

I've mentioned before that I coached my son's soccer team, and that I'd be handing him over to the high school coaches this fall.

Lex was anxious about tryouts. All summer long, he's been making us add "hopefully" to any sentence that involved him and the soccer team. Our high school soccer team is fairly competitive, and our park district team was not. He wasn't sure that he wanted to commit that much time to soccer (despite the fact that he spends many of his waking hours playing, watching, or otherwise thinking about soccer). Some of the most obnoxious players from the club system were trying out, the club system he'd avoided because he saw the kind of assholes that played in it.

He'd gone to some of the soccer practice sessions over the summer, but his plan to start running with all of his friends never really came together. The siren call of chilling and just kicking it around the park (or playing FIFA on the Playstation) had been too strong.

By the time tryouts came arrived, he was just about ready to can the whole idea. He'd been playing against the varsity players over the summer, and I think his confidence was a little shaken. He also tends to be a little anxious about getting into new things, even things he enjoys once they've started. We told him that he was going to have to make a major time commitment to something this year and it might as well be something he loved, and we reminded him that his friends were also trying out. He agreed to do this season and see how it went.

Tryouts started with two-a-days for the first week: long morning and afternoon practices. Lex woke feeling queasy, the result, we thought, of too much popcorn and coke at the movies the night before. It turns out that we were wrong. He barely made it through the first of the two practices and back to our house before he started barfing. He was too sick to make it back to the afternoon practice. He was too sick to make it to the Tuesday and Wednesday practices, but by Wednesday night he was starting to feel a little better except for a sore throat.

On Thursday, he got to practice to find that they'd already made the first round of cuts. Luckily, the coaches must have seen enough of him over the summer to have some idea of how he plays, because he was still in the running. He made it through practices and came home completely wiped out. On Friday, there were a few more cuts, but encouragingly, the coaches asked him what number he wanted. On Saturday, he brought his uniform home and we could finally stop using the word hopefully.

He asked for Zoe's number, but there was another kid on the team that really wanted it so he gave him the number. Lex flipped the digits in the number she'd originally wanted and brought home the 31 jersey. It's just a little huge on him right now. It's scary to think that if he keeps that number, he's going to grow into the uniform.

I was relieved for other, purely selfish, reasons as well. I think I mentioned that our team was sort of the Bad News Bears of the local soccer scene. We had a lot of kids who liked playing soccer but weren't natural athletes. As high school drew near, I knew that most of the kids would stop playing, but I started to worry that maybe I hadn't prepared the others well enough to make the jump to the high school team. I wondered if I was doing them a disservice by not making the practices tougher, by not being more competitive, by not pushing them harder. Even though I knew that I was coaching the way I should be coaching for the park district league, I had this nagging worry that by trying to keep all of the kids in the park district program that I might be keeping some of them out of the high school program.

In the end, some good players were cut, including at least one really talented individual player who could never make the transition to play as part of a team, but four of my boys made the team. All of the players from last season that I thought would probably make it did. Later today, they'll all take the field for the Tiger preview game and they'll officially be high schoolers before classes even start.


Johnny Yen said...

That's great that he made it!

It's interesting-- we discovered that a couple of Adam's coaches picked him over more naturally talented kids because they knew that he was a team player and was open to instruction from his coaches.

This weekend I asked him about baseball, and he said he's probably done with it-- he's in marching band at school and it's a huge time commitment.

Dale said...

That's good news, way to go for him and for you. And I didn't even use a "hopefully" in there.

GETkristiLOVE said...

Yay! Bend it like Lex!

deadspot said...

Thanks, everyone. We're pretty excited. They're throwing the kids into the deep end this year. They've got a ton of seniors, so they've set up a pretty challenging schedule to prepare for post-season and to get the younger guys ready to take their places next year. Lex had his first day of classes today, the varsity has a home game tomorrow, and the day after that, there's a JV tournament down in Charleston. It's gonna be a crazy ride.

That's probably a good idea. One huge commitment on top of adjusting to high school is probably enough.

I wish they had more opportunities for high school kids outside of the high school teams. I know that a lot of my kids would keep playing if there was a program available. I mean, you can always get a pick up game together, but it's not the same as a full team on a real field with a real ref.

Being a team player is such a huge benefit. I'd had that player on my team before. He was big and strong and talented, but he was easy to guard against no matter how much better he was than the defenders because you just knew he wasn't going to pass. Once you're playing 1 on 4, the skill thing goes out the window.

As a coach, I'll take a kid with average skills that knows when to get rid of the ball any day. I don't know how often I told my players last year "When you think you have time for one more juke, you don't."