Dada: A Sucker for Soccer
By Adam Berliant
Before Lucy was born, Martha and I played on a soccer team together. We quit after not one, not two, but three people on the team broke their legs.
Naturally, as soon as Lucy got old enough, we wanted her to play soccer as well.
When Martha found out that a local soccer club offered lessons to two-year-olds, she signed me and Lucy up.
“It’ll be a good time for you two to bond,” Martha said. (Editor’s translation: “I can’t wait to get you two out of the house so I can sit on my rump eating muffins.” )
I was a little nervous before the first class. So, Lucy and I showed up 15 minutes early and I helped her warm up. First, I instructed her on the technicalities of soccer.
“Kick it! Kick it!”
Then, I reminded her earnestly that soccer is a team sport, involving the coordination of numerous players on the field for the greater good.
“Don’t kick it to me! Kick it in the goal!”
I also taught her the most important part of the game: style. When she scores, I explained, she must run around the field with her arms up yelling “Gooooaaaaalllll.” If she wanted to rip her shirt off, that would be okay, too.
As you might imagine, she did all of this very well. I was getting increasingly excited for the class. Lucy was going to be a star.
But then, fate kicked a blooper.
Once the other kids arrived, and the coaching actually began, I learned that our pre-game warm up would be the last we’d see of any soccer balls. Soccer for two-year-olds isn’t really soccer. It’s “red light, green light,” “stomp on the bubbles,” and “stack the cones.”
If this is how kids get good at soccer, Lucy’s not likely to make it to the Neighborhood Cup, let alone the World one.
She understands the concept of “red light, green light,” but is only willing to play it if I hold one of her hands, while she sucks the other. Also, we are only allowed to run slowly. Lucy is good at chasing the bubbles, but she prefers popping them with her nose to stomping them. And when the other kids are playing “stack the cones” – Lucy prefers cleaning up the cones, and putting them back on their storage racks.
The real deal-breaker though, was “jump the noodles.” In this game, kids jump over long foam tubes that have been placed on the ground like mini-hurdles. In two years, I’ve never criticized Lucy. How could I? And so it is not criticism, but fact, when I say that Lucy can’t jump.
She can’t even come close. She makes a big attempt, with spinning windmill arms and bent knees, and it’s super cute. Super-duper cute. But she can’t lift herself even one centimeter off the ground. In the best attempts, here knees merely straighten.
I yell “GOOD JOB!” every time, and she smiles. But really, honestly...she gets as much air as a sack of flour.
Still, we keep going to soccer, and having fun, which is the important thing. Jumping be damned. And I made sure to show up 15 minutes early each time for some good goal scoring. (It might be the last chance she gets.)
But then, just this last Saturday, Lucy had a breakthrough. It was the glimmer of soccer brilliance I had been waiting for.
It was photo day, and all the kids were sent to line up for team and individual pictures. The team photo went well enough, but the individuals were a nightmare. Most toddlers don’t “stand right there,” “hold still,” or “smile for the camera.”
But Lucy isn’t most toddlers. Lucy posed for the camera like a professional. “Smile, smile!” And she did. “Hold the ball under your arm!” And she did. “Sit with your legs crossed!” She did. Ah ha! Talent!
I spent the ten bucks for the prints, and walked out as proud as any world-class athlete’s dad. I learned a valuable lesson, here. Sometimes, it’s not how good you are at something as much as it is how good you look when you’re doing it.Maybe she has a career in product endorsement. I wonder if there’s a class for toddlers on that.