Tonight was senior night for my son’s soccer team. He’s only a junior but it was impossible not to be swept up in the excitement that filled the air near the pitch as the match was about to begin. Their record going into this game was 17-1-1 over with an undefeated record in conference play. They have already won the conference title for this year! The team was conference champs last year as well. The players, coaches, and parents, are all hoping for some extended post season play in the regional and sectional games scheduled over the next two weeks.
Anyone will tell you that it’s easy to support a team that is doing well because it’s true! People love being part of a winning group. The crowds that attend these games have grown and it is more important than ever to arrive a little early to get a good seat – especially if you like to take photos, like I do. This particular group of boys have played soccer together for years, with most of them involved in year-round teams. This involves indoor futsal in the winter months and travel leagues or tournament play in the summer. They, and their families such as ours, have invested time and money into their child’s love of soccer. Having a few winning seasons, with last year being the first for our high school soccer team’s history, is icing on the cake! But, it has entailed years of hard work and dedication.
Believe it or not, we came late to soccer. My son, now a junior, did not start playing until he was in 4th grade. Yes, he played soccer through the YMCA and/or Park & Recreation division of our town before that. But, he did not start local league play until 4th grade. He was an offensive player, which I do not think most people on our current team even know. In his first game as a fourth grader, he scored in the opening 9 seconds! His coach, the man who dedicated many years to developing the local soccer following was both ecstatic and amazed. Our son was excited, and we were proud, of course. Was it more luck than skill? Of course! But, some goals are still like that for everyone!
Years followed as an offensive player which led to one of the last years he spent in that capacity of having a personal scoring record totalling 27 goals! Again, only a few people remember our student being a capable striker. Do people need to know this? No. But, I believe it does give him some depth and contributes to the player he is today.
As he moved into league and travelling play as a middle school and young high school student, he was placed in the back defensive line, usually as one of two center backs. He is a capable defensive player, as well, since he possesses some height that helps him to guard the goal and our goalie. While in this position, especially during travel league play in the first few years, he lusted for a chance to “go up.” He rarely got the opportunity.
But, luckily, our son is very “coachable” and believes in the philosophy of a team. He has repeatedly told his high school coach that he’ll play the position in which the team needs him. But, this year something else happened. He was moved from center back to right back and now consistently is able to move the ball forward instead of just keeping it out of the goal. I know he’s really grateful for the opportunity this year provided and I think that his teammates are beginning to trust him more with the ball. He doesn’t score a lot but he does run fast, and he keeps trying to get one in the net. He’s succeeded three times this season.
Sitting in the crowd last night, in freezing cold weather, it was exciting for me to see the hard work these players (and coaches) have all put in to make our soccer team successful. It is a team effort and you can see that on the field. I’ll be honest and say our family has never been the biggest bunch of sports fans. We typically do not watch the NFL games and only occasionally will watch a college game. More often, we can be caught watching the MLS soccer games broadcast on cable. But, by supporting a sport that our youngest son loves, we’ve grown to love the sport.
It’s taken hard work, dedication, and a team spirit to get this team to where they are and it’s been great fun to watch. I congratulate this team on a great season and wish them best of luck going forward. I hope they continue to have a great work ethic and have all the dedication they already possess continue. It has served them all well.