Our kickball seasons came to an official end last night. A season that began with back-to-back rainouts at the same school ended with back-to-back make-up games at that school in 90-degree heat. Not the best bookends.

C’s season wrapped up Friday in pretty glorious fashion. Every girl was locked in and they cruised to a 44–5, run-ruled win. If we had played like that the previous Monday, we just might have had a chance against the team that won our division. C closed the year with a big home run. The head coach’s husband was taking pictures and got a great one of C just after contact, her right foot up in the air, her left several inches off the ground, the ball just about out of the frame as it rocketed to the outfield.

M’s season ended on the same field last night with a doubleheader make up of two rained out games. We began the first game up 9–1, as the season-opener was stopped just as we were ending the first inning. For three weeks our girls had that inning to think about. I’m pretty sure they all expected the day to be two easy wins. And, unfortunately, they played two rather disinterested games. Oh, and it turned out their opponents were pretty good. Despite that 9–1 lead, we dropped the first game 27–20. In the second game, we trailed by three in the last inning but scraped across four runs with two outs to take a lead. Our defense, normally the bright spot on this team, had been suspect all day. And we kicked the ball around the infield long enough to let the tying and winning runs in.

Yep, a team that had lost six regular season games in nine seasons coming in got swept in a doubleheader and finished the year with three losses. Not exactly the way we wanted these girls to end their kickball careers.

After the game M was a little teary. Likely more because she jammed a finger in the last inning than because she was emotional about her kickball days being done. I reminded her how when she was in third grade, she said she absolutely did not want to play in the spring.[1] We told her that she had to at least give it a try. She not only played that spring, but was super excited to play in the fall of her fourth grade year. And never stopped after. I also reminded her that in ten seasons, she had a ton of great memories she would hang on to for years. I don’t know if that helped her, but it made me feel better.

Our weekend was full of sports, too.

L finally got on the soccer field, errrr, pitch with games both Saturday and Sunday. They were two very different experiences.

The league L is in partners with a couple neighboring leagues to make sure we have enough teams at the U12-U16 levels. And our first opponent was a true club team. These girls had been playing together for several years and were, the head coach and I were guessing, the product of a tryout process rather than a blind, random generation of kids like our roster was. We hung in for the first 10 minutes or so, but it got real ugly after that. We lost something like 10–1. We gave up two penalty kicks because of handballs in the box. We probably should have given up two more but our ref didn’t seem super interested in calling anything that wasn’t blatantly obvious.

It didn’t help that our opponents were huge compared to ours. They all had to be early 2007 birthdays, and were tall and thick, where our team was full of late 2008 girls who are either short or have cross country bodies. It really looked like we were in the wrong league, both in terms of talent and size. Oh, and we were missing four girls, so we had zero subs. And one of our players took a shot in the nose and had to sit out for several minutes until it stopped bleeding.

For the first time since she started playing, L looked totally outclassed. It took her a long time to figure out how to get and keep possession. And then she would dribble into the teeth of the defense and get surrounded by three girls who were all 5’4” and thick. She did set up our only goal by taking a ball deep down the side and crossing it. But for the most part she was humbled.

Sunday we played a team that looked only slightly smaller than Saturday’s opponents. Again it was a very even first 10–15 minutes until they broke through with a couple goals. We pulled one back when L made a good run, got completely wiped out inside the box, everyone stopped waiting for a whistle that never came, and one of our other girls pounced on the loose ball and put it in.

The second half was another story. I don’t know what happened, because we mostly let the girls sit and hydrate to recover from the heat at halftime, but we absolutely dominated the first 15 minutes of the second half. The head coach and I got all over L for giving up on a ball right in front of us because a bigger defender was chasing it down, too. She got pissed, charged down the field and stole the ball back. Moments later, she pulled a Roberto Baggio, collecting a ball deep in the defensive end and dribbling straight up the field before ripping one by the goalie. Really, these goals should not happen at this level. I think the defense was just tired. Their goalie then scored on herself and we were tied.[2]

L got another goal to put us ahead, and missed two dead easy chances that literally made me fall over in disbelief. She looked like she belonged Sunday. We got a fifth goal late when their goalie gifted us another and we got out with a 5–3 win. The mood of the girls was like 1000% better than Saturday, shockingly. One girl, Saturday, kept saying, “What’s the point? Why are we even trying?” I was going to start calling her Lucy from the Peanuts because of her attitude. After Sunday’s game she had a big grin on her face and I asked her, “Isn’t it better when you don’t give up hope and keep playing?”

Because of other sports, I hadn’t been able to be around the entire team until this weekend. I’m not sure how good we’ll be, since we’re so young and small, but I really like a bunch of the girls. We have a few who are super athletic and a little stubborn, and refuse to give up if a bigger girl takes the ball away. We have three girls who work really well with L, and they could become difficult to stop once they learn how to play together. One of those girls can slide all over the field and cover any position while making fantastic passes to her teammates. And a bunch of them have fun personalities. We have one girl who complains a lot. At halftime she was complaining about how hot it was and how she hated running. Our smallest girl, who is this tiny thing with glasses and braces but is also really good, said in her little voice, “Don’t you run track, though?” Not everyone heard it but I busted out laughing, “Dang, O! You just roasted her!” and the whole team lost it. O sat there with a proud, sheepish grin on her face.

C also ran Saturday afternoon. We kind of hate this race because A) it’s huge; I think every school in the area is invited and B) it is always in the afternoon so the runners at the high school that hosts can run in their meet in the morning. So we’re always out in the open and it is usually hot. Saturday was just nasty hot and humid.

Except for the elite runners, who cruised to wins, everyone was having a really hard time. In C’s race, all St. P’s runners were on the verge of tears and barely able to stand at the end. She finished 18th with about the same time she ran last year. S and I had to walk with her, helping her along, until we could get her to shade after she finished. She was the fourth St. P’s runner and the third in her grade. Now that kickball is done I’m hoping a little extra training will push her up a few spots in the next few meets.

  1. Back then third graders could not play until the spring season, and then only on mixed teams with fourth graders.  ↩
  2. Speaking of things that shouldn’t happen at this level, goalies should not kick the ball backwards over their heads into their own goals.  ↩