With the late holiday, our kid fall sports calendars are a little odd this year. Kickball always starts just after school begins and runs for only three weeks. And soccer did not start until after Labor Day. But as of Sunday, we finally have all three girls on the fields each week.
It’s been a fantastic season for M’s team. Last night they wrapped up a perfect regular season with their fifth run-ruled win in seven games. Now I must point out that some oddness in both the rules for this age group and how St. P’s picks teams combined to make M’s team much, much more talented than any team they faced. At this level, fifth and sixth graders play together. The best team from each school is put into the A league, and then the remaining girls get dropped into the B league. St. P’s had enough girls come out that they had an all-sixth grader team in the A league, and then a mixed sixth/fifth and a fifth grade-only team in the B league. M was on the fifth-only team, and because St. P’s just divides up girls rather than ranks the girls, her team ended up with the 4–5 best fifth graders. One poor team in their division only had three fifth graders and then a bunch of fourth graders that had to play up. St. P’s whacked them 61–11 in five innings. It was pretty brutal to watch.
Anyway, M’s team is moving on to the city tournament, which is next week. They play another undefeated team on Tuesday in the semifinals. Win that and they play either St. S, which beat the 5th/6th team from St. P’s twice, or St. B, our nemesis from kickball and volleyball last year.
It’s been cool to watch our girls play. Last year we had about two really good players. This year, most of the girls kick much better, understand how to run bases, and generally do a really good job in the field. They catch almost everything and routinely throw out girls at first base on anything that stays in front of the pitcher.
M. has really gotten better, too. She mastered bunting this year, which in kickball means you tap the ball so it goes beyond the five-foot arc and then haul ass to first base. In fact, I think she only made one or two outs when she bunted. I forced her to kick hard late in games when they were way ahead and then she almost always made an out. Which led to this conversation after games, “See what happens when I try to kick hard, Dad? I make outs. And I don’t like making outs.”
Last week she had her best game ever kicking, assisted by some fielding issues by the other team. Twice she dribbled the ball forward and took off for first. Twice the suicide (infielder who plays next to pitcher) raced up to knock the ball foul before it crossed the five-foot arc. Twice the suicide was late and hit the ball after it had moved fair. Once she hit it about ten feet behind home and M. ended up on third. The other time the girl blasted the ball and it rolled 30 feet beyond home. M. raced around and came home for a Little League home run, kickball style. As I posted to Facebook, we are absolutely counting that as a home run!
She’s also gotten much better in the field. She’s thrown out at least six girls at first when playing suicide on the third base side. She quickly grabs the ball, turns and heaves it to first without looking. Somehow the ball is always perfectly on line, takes one big bounce, and beats the runner to first. One game the other coach told his players to kick it to her. She threw out the first two runners of the inning before he told them to kick it somewhere else. Respect from the other coach! Never thought I’d see the day!
C. has now run in two cross country meets. Her first, the weekend before Labor Day, had a relay setup. Each runner was paired with another, and they took turns running 1K loops until the team had compiled 6K total. She and her partner finished exactly in the middle, both in place and time. They were 17th of 35 teams, six minutes behind the winners and six minutes ahead of the last-place finishers.
She had her first chance to run solo this past weekend. She did great, coming in 25th of 60 third and fourth grade girls in 16:03.
She’s pretty funny to watch run. Like a lot of kids her age, she doesn’t have the best form. Her arms tend to drop and she is often leaning forward too far with her upper body. You’d think nothing could be more natural for a kid than running, right? Like probably every kid ever, when she runs close to us and we’re able to cheer loud enough for her to hear, she kicks it up a notch. And when she thinks she’s out of sight, she dials it waaaay back.
We think she’s enjoying it, although it’s hard to tell sometimes. I think she likes being on a team, enjoys the time she spends with a couple of her closest friends who are also running, and feels herself improving. But I don’t know that she loves the actual running. They practice three times a week, which means her evenings are kind of a wreck with her coming home tired and hungry. I still think she may be better suited to track than cross country, but she is only a third grader. She had plenty of time to figure that out.
Finally, L. had her first soccer game last Sunday. She’s moved up to U8 this year, and her team is mixed between young first graders and second graders. The team they played Sunday was almost all second graders, and that age/experience difference showed. L’s team lost 4–1, primarily because the first three kids to play goalie for her team kept forgetting they could use their hands. A couple of the goals came when they were flailing at the ball with their feet and it bounced by when they could have easily picked it up.
For probably the first time since she started playing, she was not the best player on the field. She struggled to retain possession against the bigger kids. The few times she got the ball on a breakaway, they ran her down where last year she could outrun everybody. She never got a good scoring chance in the box. A couple times she shot the ball from way too far out to have a real chance.
We saw her developing some bad habits last spring when she was still playing against the younger kids. She needs to work to get rid of them. She developed a stupid ”trick” of intentionally falling down every time she kicked the ball hard. She was still doing that Sunday. And the shooting from way out thing was a way to challenge herself last year, when she had no defensive pressure on her and no goalie in front of her. Those are easy saves this year.
I think this year is going to be good for her. She loves soccer and says she wants to be a professional player when she grows up. She’s going to have to figure out how to hold possession against the bigger kids, how to pass and run to space in order to get good scoring chances, and remember to never turn the ball to the middle when she’s on defense. She still had lots of fun Sunday, although she was bummed that they lost. For her two classmates that were on her last two teams, this was the first time they had ever lost a game together! Pretty good run.
- In CYO kickball there is an arc that runs foul line to foul line five feet in front of home. If the defense can get to the ball before it crosses that line and push it back, it counts as a foul ball. Once it crosses that line, it’s fair and in play. ↩