And The Little Girls Cried….

Last weekend my family had the privilege of accompanying our daughter to another city in another state for the National Indoor Soccer Championships. My daughter is eleven years old. They came in second for the regionals that were played in their home facility so this was a much bigger deal. The excitement of the weekend was definitely staying in a hotel for two whole nights and eating in restaurants and swimming in the pool. I thought it was wonderful that they were so very far removed from the whole competition aspect of the event. They were there because they love to play soccer. Twelve little girls with lanky legs and bobbing pony tails. Well…my daughter lacks the lanky legs as yet….and several have hair too short for ponys. One had just gotten back from a cruise vacation so she was tanned and braided and beaded to the max. Fashion aside they were excited to see one another in another city in another state.

In our room there was an argument over who slept in the rollaway and who slept on the little love seat. Mom and Dad got the bed. That was a given. We are the paying customers here. The tv was tuned to something we all wanted to watch – for once – and the snack box filled with apples and bananas and oranges and granola bars and cheese crackers was fair game.

The first game was at nearly noon on Saturday. It was a 5-0 win. The second game was six hours later. It was a 9-1 win. What a delight to see our daughter ecstatically taken out of her usual position as goalie and put in a s a forward. She no sooner hit the field than she was tearing toward the opposite net and scored a goal. Our cheering section roared. Yeah…we are moms and dads and brothers and sisters and we are pretty loud. Heh. VERY loud. Out for a team dinner. A little too expensive and way too late. Back to the hotel. Showers. Another ‘who gets the rollaway bed argument’. Once again, Mom and Dad get the big bed. It’s a given. Early game on Sunday.

It was early. Too early for soccer but our lanky legged champions were up for it. A little tougher this time. A 5-2 win. We were headed for the finals. Hotel check out is 1 pm. The game is at 3:30. What to do in between? Wal-Mart calls these out of town shoppers.

Division winners. Champions. Pumped and hyped and ready for the finals. Faces painted like warriors of old. WAZA! Skull printed bandanas on their heads. Smiles and grins and determined glares. Forty minutes later…..sunken hearts. A 5-4 loss. Tears on cheeks and plastic smiles. Still we cheered. Heh. We were loud! Moms and dads and brothers and sisters stomped their feet and whistled and yelled and clapped till our palms were red and hurting. And the little girls cried. Tears streaked their faces and their eyes were hurting as they ran to the barrier in front of the bleachers as their coach instructed them to do. Plastic smiles. Medals given. Red ribbons. Finalists.

Quiet ride home from another city in another state. Reassurance that they had done their best and that was all they could do. Reminders that we had still had fun. The hotel…the restaurants… the pool…..the new friends from other teams. And while my non-lanky legged champion slept in the back seat I wondered if this was the right thing to do. Is soccer really worth the red ribbons and the medals and the tears and the plastic smiles? We have logged a lot of miles for practices…for games….for ‘perfect shoe’ searches. We have paid alot of money for clinics and camps and coaches and ‘perfect shoes.’ Really, really worth it?

The very next day we were back at the soccer facility. Our champions were scheduled for a regular season’s game. One day back. Twenty four hours from that moment of loss. One day and one night away from the tears and the plastic smiles.

They were bouncing. They were giggling. They were running and kicking and dribbling and striking for the pure and simple joy of it. As I watched the smile on my daughter’s face…..the steely determination in her eyes as she guarded her goal…..I knew the answer. Yeah. It’s worth it.

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