Archive for the ‘soccer’ category

“It Doesn’t Matter”

April 17, 2011

When you are a freshman on a high school soccer team, you have a tendency to become the butt of some random good natured teasing and pranks from the upperclassmen players. My son came home from his first soccer camp with his very first ever buzz cut….courtesy of a random senior student who took his razor to the heads of a number of willing participants. He told us about someone – a freshman – being duct taped to a chair and then given rides up and down a dormitory elevator. (Several students were sent home early for that one.) He also came home with the nick name ‘Inspector Lee’ – a moniker that he decided to wear on the back of his team hoodie that year. There were a couple of other choices. I think they called him ‘Jackie Chan’ for a while and ‘Ramen’ a couple of times. But ‘Inspector Lee’ stuck and he liked it. It was a character name from one of his favorite movies – ‘Rush Hour’ – with Chris Rock and Jackie Chan – after all. And the name was affectionately given by people that he had respect for. The name was received in the manner it was bestowed.

He has been playing soccer since he was four. Thirteen years now. Next year he will be the senior goal tender for his varsity team. It has taken me a while to get used to such name calling. All of the things kids say to each other and call each other in sports. Trash talking between friends. You would think that I would have developed an iron hide by now. I mean, I grew up a ‘stocky’, over weight, hearing impaired, head rocking, bookish ‘nerd’. I was always out of sync with the people in my little world. However, I remember seventh grade as being the worst year of my entire life.

Still.

Not only had I been catapulted from the warm cocoon of elementary school – where I’d been nutured with the same small group of kids since Kindergarten – into junior high but I committed the horrendous fashion faux pas of wearing bright green tights and a dress with a huge daisy pin on the first day of school.

‘Flower Power’

The teasing began from the very start…..and never seemed to stop. I wasn’t into the social scene of rec nights and over nights. I did not make friends easily and most of my elementary buddies had been scattered into different, alphabetically organized, home rooms. There was a small group in my classes who took particular pleasure in rolling my round packets of hearing aid batteries across the classroom floor. How they managed to get them out of my purse hanging on the back of my chair I will never know.

But the very worst of the worst that happened that year was the name I was stuck with.

‘Tank’

‘Tank of the Jungle’

“Tank…Tank…Tank of the Jungle….please don’t sit on MeeEEee…..”

Princess is involved in a research project about bullying for school. It seems to be the subject of the moment everywhere right now. I dredged up all those memories of 7th grade the other day trying to explain to her why it was important to get a handle on bullying and why it should be stopped. I told her how my skin crawls every time I hear the ‘George of the Jungle’ theme song…..even now. I told her how I just can not bring myself to ‘friend’ some of those junior high people who have found me on Face Book because I can still hear them. I reminded her of her own experience with being teased about her ‘Chinese Eyes.’

To be honest, my extended family has never been one to shirk away from ethnic nick names and affectionate slams. Jokes. We have heard and said them all at one time or another. Sarcasm runs rampant in my neck of the woods.

Affectionately.

And maybe this is why it surprised me that it bothered me SO. VERY. MUCH. last night to hear high schoolers heckling my son – my Asian son – during a particulary violatile soccer match. They stood behind the net goal he guarded as the goalie for his team and told him to ‘go back to North Korea or where ever he was from.’

Someone complained and the high schoolers were asked to leave…..and they did. The venue manager stood guard for the rest of the match – watching and listening.

High schoolers.

And when I asked him today if he could hear them last night, he just shrugged and said that it doesn’t matter.

But maybe….in the very grand scheme of things….it does.

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And The Little Girls Cried….

March 10, 2007

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.