And now for some girls sporting notes.

M. ended her kickball season last night. Her team got another big win (45-11 after trailing 9-4 to begin the second inning) to end their season at 6-1. Unfortunately, that was not enough to make the championship tournament. Only the four division winners go into the tournament. And their one loss came to a team that went 7-0.

That single loss was a bummer. The other team scored eight runs with two outs in the fifth and the St. P’s girls couldn’t recover, losing 26-19. One bad inning on defense away from the playoffs. Which I don’t think the girls really cared about. The coaches and their humble scorekeeper (me!) were bummed out. Especially since the 7-0 team pulled a bit of a fast one, getting one of the other teams from their school to forfeit rather than reschedule a rained-out game to ensure the St. P’s couldn’t catch them. There’s always some drama…

I think M. had a lot of fun this year. She got better, although we still need to work on her kicking and get her to understand her role in the field better. When she plays an infield position or in the outfield, she’s really good at getting to the ball, collecting it, and getting it back to the pitcher. Last night she played one of the suicide positions, the two players who stand by the pitcher and have to deal with most of the balls kicked in the infield, and was often at a loss at what to do.

The other two girls began their soccer seasons two Sundays ago. L. has scored five goals in each of her first two games and is up to her usual bad-assery. Even though she’s not yet six, I bet we could have moved her up to U8 this year and she would have been fine. But her team is all kids that are either in kindergarten with her at St. P’s, or kids who will go there next year, which she loves. She and L., who is in the other K class, have become fast friends. They’ve played together in both games and have terrorized the boys trying to stop them. When I’ve made it to school early for pickup while the K classes are still outside, I always see those two together organizing their classmates in some kind of activity.

The real fun is C.’s team, which as you may recall, I am coaching. As in head coaching. All by myself. Well, a couple dads who know soccer much better than I do but have to travel a lot are helping out when they can. But the planning of practices, setting the lineups, etc. is all on me. Which was thoroughly frightening at first, since I never played soccer and am doing it all by trial and error.

That’s compounded a little by our team having a lot of kids who either have never played soccer before, or have not played in several years. Fortunately, most of the kids are at least fast and like to run, which can mean a lot when you move to the bigger U10 fields.

Fortunately we had three weeks of practice before our first game, so I was able to get them used to each other and working on their skills. Still, when we began our first game, I realized we hadn’t spent nearly enough time on how to move the ball around the field. The goalies didn’t understand that they didn’t have to stand on the goal line to pass out to their teammates. The defenders didn’t understand how they had to work together, or how they were not tied to the penalty box when the ball went forward. The midfielders didn’t understand how to work together up front, or how to get back to help the defenders.

All that showed on game day as we lost 5-2, with all the goals against coming on plays where the defenders stood around and watched the other team fire on goal.

So we worked on that before the second game. And it appeared to pay off. We got a 5-1 win in week two, giving up the only goal in the last ten seconds of the game. The kids did better on every part of the field, we actually had some passing in the attack, and we thoroughly dominated possession.

The highlight, for me, was the first goal of the game. C. was one of our midfielders (We play two defenders, three midfielders because telling them we had two midfielders and one forward seemed to confuse them) and as she often does, got way ahead of the defense, but was out on the wing. She cut the ball into the box, there was some back-and-forth with the defense and our team as they all knocked the ball around, and eventually she collected it and fired it in. Dad got a little fired up. Not only was it her first “real” soccer goal – one that came with a goalie playing – but it was the first one for our family, as M. was usually playing defense in her U10 days.

We have two boys that are pretty fast and can shoot. We have another girl that isn’t as fast as C. without the ball, but with the ball she can fly up the field and knows how to shoot. We have a girl I was a little concerned about because she isn’t very fast and is very quiet, so I had a hard time telling if she was grasping everything. In our first game I put her in as a defender and she did awesome, getting in front of the ball and either taking it away or clearing it out each time she had a chance.

The best part is that almost all of the kids are always smiling and laughing. I think it helps that several of them don’t have much soccer experience. It’s literally a game to them and they are excited to get out and play. The boy who is probably our best player doesn’t have that same attitude, and I think it’s because he knows the game more and is thinking more about winning and losing. Which I can identify with, as I was hyper-competitive when I was a kid.1

A month of practices and two games in, I’m feeling more comfortable. I still wish I knew better, instinctively, how to teach the kids game-specific stuff. But the dads who are helping out do a great job helping me there.

We play a team that is 2-0 this week. Hopefully I’ll have the kids ready.

  1. “Was?!?!” my wife would say. I’ve mellowed but I still have my moments.