Anticipation was high. All the mother’s anxiety was higher.
Water bottles? Check. Halftime orange slices? Check. After game snacks and juice boxes? Check.
Spectators set up lawn chairs battling for the best open places on the sidelines. This would be an epic contest, one replayed on family home movies for years to come.
Coaches were nervous. After all, their reputations were on the line. If their teams didn’t perform, well it would be obvious to everyone, and most importantly themselves, that they were failures as coaches, maybe even failures at life, like, forever!
The referee wanted to take control of the game of four-year olds in 4 vs. 4 game that doesn’t require World Cup refs. It didn’t matter. His nervous habit of rubbing his acne took the air out of his mystique. Plus, he was only thirteen, 5 feet tall and maybe 97 pounds.
The players weren’t stressed a bit. Although two players had to go potty before the game. Probably just nervous energy.
The Kicking Broncos wore neon blue shirts that hurt your eyes, while the Little Rascals wore bright, lime yellow shirts. They’d never get lost in the dark glowing like lightning bugs. Someone dropped a case of fluorescent highlighters in a washing machine with white T-shirts to figure out the color.
Each player’s last name was on the back above his number, but one player didn’t like his number and cried because someone else got number ‘1’. Someone give give that kid a trophy before he cries again!!
Just before the game the coach explained passes, fast breaks, corner kicks, crosses, passes and dribbling using a white dry-erase board for strategy.
He told one player to drive down the sideline at full-speed, cross the ball straight in front of the goal so the next player could make a one touch, left-footed power kick with his left foot to score a goal. Ironically, the coach was convinced it would happen just like that.
It’s easier teaching calculus to hillbillies who average 1.47 teeth per person than explaining soccer plays to 4-year-olds!
One kid raised his hand. The coach acknowledged on him.
“I, I, I thew up my peanut buller, and, and, and jelly samich lass night!”
The coach just said not to throw up again until after the game.
The little ref, or giant pimple, whichever you prefer, halfheartedly blew his whistle to start the game. The crowd roared as grandparents waved, fathers gave last-minute instructions, and two mothers ran on the field to spray SP40 sunscreen on their angels.
The Little Rascals kicked off. The kicker ran to the ball, stopped, reared back and kicked as hard as he could. It rolled two feet.
All four players from both teams converged in mass confusion all kicking at once. Most missed, however, accidentally kicking the players beside him.
Finally, the ball popped out near the edge. A mother began screaming at her son to kick the ball, so he ran and kicked it straight out-of-bounds. The mother, who apparently knew nothing about soccer, started jumping up and down waving both fists over her head in a victory celebration! Yay! World Cup win!!
The ref forgot to blow the whistle, so the other kids all ran like cattle after feed cubes kicking the ball further and further away. Both coaches ran after the stampeding herd before pimple ref finally blew a whistle that sounded more like wheezing allergies than a whistle.
The players finally hopped, skipped and jumped back on the field. The mother, whose boy had kicked the ball of out bounds, had her son posing on the sidelines to commiserate his “first kick” in a soccer game.
The game restarted and the ball went back and forth as everyone ran beside whoever happened to kick the ball. Finally, the smallest player and broke loose toward the open goal. After getting a few steps ahead of everyone else, he suddenly stopped and reached down to adjust his shin guards.Now a Little Rascal got the ball! He pushed his own player out of the way and started kicking the ball toward the other end. A herd of kids can’t change directions on a dime, so the boy just kept kicking until the ball rolled out-of-bounds.
During the second quarter the coaches got one player who didn’t like to run to stay back in front of their goal to “kick it away” when the ball rolled to them, you know, like kickball. Both back players picked flowers, caught bugs, looked at an airplane in the sky and climbed in the net in the back of the goal — anything, and everything, but pay attention.
Once the Little Rascals made an extra long kick straight at the goal. All eyes followed the ball rolling toward the goal. The Kicking Bronco defender had managed to get himself tangled up in the net and was hanging by both arms with his head down, like he had been locked in the stocks for punishment during the revolutionary war.
Parents started screaming and he snapped to it and managed to get one arm loose before a Rascal player kicked the ball again. There was good news and bad news. The good news was that even though he was tangled up, the ball hit the flower picker’s leg and bounced away saving a score.
His mother, the same one who went ballistic happy every time he kicked the ball, raised both hands again and began jumping up and down like Rocky Balboa.
The bad news was another Kicking Bronco was running toward the goal too and when the ball rolled to him made a beautiful little shot right into the corner of the net for an “own goal”.
It was by far the best shot of the day, never mind that he scored for the wrong team! He was so happy he scored that no one bothered to tell him it was for the other team.
The colossal match went back and forth for four periods. Finally, pimple ref blew the whistle, kind of, and the game ended in an anti-climactic sigh of relief. No one really knew the score, except the coaches, because the losing coach was going to have to discuss the loss with his therapist while the other put the victory on his job resume.
Parents and grandparents made a human tunnel for the players to run through. Both teams ran through, all smiles and giggles, mostly because they knew after game snacks and juice boxes were on tap.
Walking back to the parking lot, I heard victory dance mom bragging to her son about how good he was at soccer, and how he had saved a goal….at least until his teammate scored on him.
Her son didn’t care the least. He’d stopped 30 feet behind her to pick little white flowers.
Next week though is a grandparent’s dream!! The Little Rascals play on an all-girls team, the Ponytails! Yes! Can’t wait!!