enter the world of soccer

friday was the opening day of ayso soccer – it’s the boy’s first year playing. in fact, it’s his first time playing any kind of organized sport. having never played organized sports myself, i just want him to have fun and learn to be a “good sport.” i really don’t care if his team wins, but i do care that he learns to win and lose graciously.

the under-6 league for ayso is pretty casual … or so i was told. the kids don’t have practices during the week (just 20 minutes before the game), they don’t keep score (“everyone’s a winner!”), the quarters are only 5 minutes long, everyone plays, there’s no goalie, that kind of thing. that’s perfect for the boy because he’s small for his age and not the most coordinated of kids (he does, after all, take after me) – he does have heart, though, and it was clear that he was excited about playing soccer.

a couple of weeks ago the team got together to kick the ball around and do some drills. it was cute. it was nice. it only took 30 minutes. i thought, “this is great! the boy’s having fun, getting exercise, and learning teamwork.” but then we had a meeting with the parents. this is when i got a funny feeling that perhaps i was getting myself into something more involved than i had imagined. the idea of a team banner was mentioned at our first meeting. JR and i really didn’t care about having a banner; we just weren't thrilled about shelling out more money, but whatever. i guess you can't argue with all the other parents who emphatically said, "we have to have a banner." we have to? apparently, we do. because, you know, in case our 4~6 year old boys end up in the championship or something, it'd be shameful if we didn't have a banner. [sarcasm here]

well, silly us, we clearly didn’t understand the soccer culture because almost every team in the under-10 leagues had a banner at the opening ceremonies on friday. our area, apparently, is one of the largest regions with over 140 teams. we sat through a parade of every single team and looked at all the pretty banners. and, to be honest, i was glad the boy’s team had a banner … or else it would make us look like we didn’t care enough.

then the big day came: the team’s first game. we got to the field a little early for practice. i have to say it again – it’s so cute to see these little guys running to kick the ball, sometimes making it, sometimes missing, but always trying. plus, their uniforms are too big so they’re running around in baggy shorts and shirts, which makes them look even smaller. so, i'm all smiles watching my son trying his best. and then, just before the game, during the team huddle, we could hear from the sidelines the coach asking, “are we ready?” the kids yelled back, “yeah!” and then, get this, the coach asks, “are we gonna win?” “yeah!!” win?? i thought there was no winning. and JR said the coach never asked the kids if they were just going to go out there and have fun. hmm ...

the game started and it was more exciting than i thought it would be. there was a bit of sideline coaching by the parents, but for the most part we just yelled and cheered to encourage the boys to keep trying. and in the case of my boy, to make sure he was still paying attention towards the end of the game. there are a couple of pretty good players on his team so the boy only touched the ball a few times, but he did manage to kick the ball between an opponent's legs. my mom (the little asian lady) totally got into it and was yelling through much of the game, which JR thought was amusing.

in the end, the kids did have fun and our team did win (5-0) even though we aren't supposed to care about that. but, of course, the only thing the boy wanted to talk about to people afterwards was how his team won. not surprising, huh?

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