I’m number 2!

September 12th, 2010

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I played on a co-ed soccer team from 1st grade until 5th grade, and though I could identify the three best players on the team, the classification stopped there. The rest of us were just on the team. Whether this was a gender thing, result of my personality (apparently *everyone* but me knows girl politics start in pre-school – OMG “heathers” wasn’t just a movie?), or related to the fact that on that co-ed team, “co-ed” never included more than 2 girls making the comparison like apples to bananas, I just never felt the need to calculate my place in the pecking order. This left me utterly unprepared for the first week of soccer angst that befell Will.

I’ve written about how soccer wasn’t high on his list of activities for the fall, but yeah, I signed him up anyway. Soccer is our insurance against depression, social angst, and lack of clarity. Probably more important than the fact that soccer offers Will an athletic outlet to burn through that boy energy, it also does wonders for his social life. Nothing bonds kids to each other like adversity, and sports teams made up mostly of classmates have one of the higher adversity per minute ratios of the legal options. No one survives a season without having the air knocked out of him with a rogue ball. Walk that off and go back to play? You gain the instant respect of your teammates. 90 minutes of ball-play on an unlighted pitch on a frigid autumn night tests anyone’s constitution. When they win, they win together. When they lose, they lose together. Such is soccer. So when Will sounded anxious about his first practice, trying to talk me out of taking him, I was nervous. What if he is “bookish”? Maybe boys worry about the pecking order in 1st grade? Maybe soccer was better on paper.

I did as any good parent does and spent the 15 minute drive to the field talking through Will’s fears. No, that kindergartener who is the best player of the k-3s would not be on his team. No, he would not be thrown onto the field into a kick-off against other kids. This would be practice where they’d dribble through cones, practice running and passing. He’d learn how to play soccer.

I threw him out onto the field and crossed my fingers.

Sure enough, 90 minutes later he ran off the pitch beaming from ear to ear going on and on about how much fun that practice had been. The following week the report changed to, “Mom! I’m the second best player after only two practices!” Oh, really! It turns out, he just felt he was. He had kicked the ball up into the air over the edge of the field and he and 4 other kids stood around contemplating how to retrieve it until one was coached to just climb down after it. In Will’s book, that was professional soccer, immediately catapulting him to 2nd in the pecking order. And hey, if he feels like #2, I’m going to let him be #2 until he realizes otherwise.