It’s been a nice, relaxing week. With the exception of C.’s Daisy Scouts meeting yesterday, we’ve not had a single event outside of school. Which has been nice after two-plus months of soccer practice and games.

M. and C. wrapped up their seasons on Sunday. M.’s team had a great game against an opponent that had not lost all season. It was a tense affair, as the coaches for the other team were being very aggressive, throwing all their defenders forward the entire game, in an effort to clinch the undefeated season. M.’s team went up 1-0 in the first half, trailed 2-1 late in the fourth, and got a tying goal on a free-kick just outside the box with less that two minutes to play. It was a fun, entertaining game, and all the parents were super into it.

M. got better over the course of the year, but still struggles with the physical part of the game. It’s frustrating for us to watch her start from zero again when each season begins and have to slowly build confidence and remember technique. The thing is, as I’ve said every year, is that she loves being out there with her teammates. She never really gets down when she messes up, or when her team loses. But, as the other kids get bigger and improve, she’s also going to be the target of harsh words from teammates if she’s the weak link. There were a few times this year when some of her male teammates yelled at her. I have a feeling she won’t be able to shake that off much longer.

In her defense, even the girls on her team who are more skilled than her exhibit some of the same on-field behavior: standing around staring at the sidelines instead of watching the ball, talking to their friend next to them, or getting caught flat-footed when a faster player runs right by them.

Most of M.’s teammates from the past two seasons are moving up to the U-13 league in the spring. She’s not old enough, or skilled enough, to go along with them. So we may hold her out of soccer in the spring, and beyond that we’ll just have to see.

C. scored another goal and had an assist in her game. Her team came a long way this year. They were awful the first couple weeks. In one early game I don’t think they ever got the ball near the other goal. By the end of the season they had figured it out and were consistently pushing forward and getting scores. We thought it was cool that C. and the other Kate on her team scored the first two goals this past week.

C. kills me on the soccer field. She’s always running and always giggling. As long as she doesn’t get kicked or take a shot in the stomach, she’s constantly working to get close to the ball and has a big grin on her face. We’re not sure if we’re going to do soccer for everyone in the spring, but she will move up to the next league in the fall. I’ll be really interested to see how she fits in at that level. She’s fast and can control the ball, but does get frustrated and upset more than M. does.

L.’s season ended a week earlier. She was excited to get her trophy and team picture, both firsts for her. I lost track of how many goals she scored this year, but she had at least three five-goal games. She was the only player on her team who knew to go to the goal when she got the ball. She almost always kept the ball in the middle of the field and worked towards the center if she was outside. She was persistent, getting in the middle of the scrums and kicking to force the ball out. And she understood that when the other team breaks out, you run to the ball and take it away rather than running all the way back to the goal. As a coach, her most significant accomplishment this season was only crying once, by far a team low.

Seriously, I know we had a bunch of kids that began the year as just four-year-olds, but there was a lot of crying. In practice. In games. Crying because they got kicked or knocked over. Crying because they didn’t get to play. Crying because they had to play. Crying because they didn’t get to take throw-ins. Crying because we were using their ball. Crying because we weren’t using their ball. And I’m sure there were tears for other reasons I’m forgetting.

One kid clearly had some issues. He was the biggest kid on the team, was fast, and when he focused could kick the crap out of the ball. But he was really reluctant to get in and mix it up, generally content to stand just behind the action. If the other team took possession, he would run full speed back to the goal and turn to guard it. Even with me yelling, “Come back to the ball!” he’d just keep running.

And he didn’t deal with negativity well. One game we gave up two-straight goals after he did his turn-and-run act then failed to try to stop the ball. His mom yelled something to him about getting in there and playing after the first goal. I didn’t hear what she said after the second, but as I was walking the ball back to midfield for the kickoff, I saw him running, full-speed, off our field, across the next, then through the baseball fields and towards the parking lot. Dude just took off! By this point in the season I had seen this a few times so I calmly looked to the sideline and yelled for one of our other players to come in. Good times.

The league has a nice socio-economic mix, with both well-off families and working class ones, with a decent number of black and Latin families. L. had one teammate named LaMont and another that preferred to go by Juice. Both were white. Perhaps my favorite details of this season.

L. had a great first year of soccer. She was aggressive, had lots of fun, and lived up to the Wiggins-like hype from those who saw her dribble around while her sisters played last spring. I kid. Kind of. The parents who watched her last spring were not surprised when she would march over and tell them how many goals she scored after each game this fall. No truth to the rumor I’m repurposing our garage this winter so that L. has cones to dribble through and a full net to fire on.