Team sports were best when the kids were little and played for the grand experience of the whole thing.
Son Number One burst onto the soccer scene at six, wearing cleats the size and shape of the business end of a toothbrush. He’d never heard of “offsides” nor had he, in all his years of outdoor recreation, come across a soccer goal, but we missed baseball signups and he wanted to play something, anything.
The first time most of the kids on his team ever saw a soccer field was when they played their first game. I ran down to stand behind the goal so they would know which way to run to score points. Not only unnecessary, this strategy was ineffective. 18 little boys chasing a runaway ball operate on basically the same principal as a swarm of fruit flies chasing a rotten orange.
The ball is in charge and, without question or deviation, they follow wherever it leads. Once I looked up in time to see a herd of gleeful little boys in baggy shorts chase a ball down a hill of muddy red clay and into the woods. The woods were part of a protected wetland area, and resident snakes and other wildlife were only part of the reason that a No Trespassing rule was in place. The boys emerged, some sooner and some later, covered in sticks and smiles. None were in possession of the ball.
Another area of fascination is the uniform. Soccer clothes are a curiosity to small children. As a general rule, the shirt billows like the sails of a tall ship in high winds, and the shorts are often large enough for everyone on the team to fit in the same pair, with a drawstring to cinch them tight enough to prevent embarrassment.
There was a bit of excitement once when a small, blonde boy was absorbed with an emergency situation involving an untied shoe during peak action. At that age shoe-tying is still a risky proposition at best, requiring total concentration. Dealing with voluminous clothing while he bent to tie the errant shoelace added an extra challenge. He managed to tie the drawstring of his shorts in with the bow of his shoe and when he stood up, a dramatic scene evolved that was worthy of an opening shot on television’s famous old show, The Wide World of Sports. It’s a good thing there’s no instant replays at kids’ games.
It took three referees, two knot-worthy Boy Scouts, and a Team Mom with a cooler full of drink boxes to restore order.