The earthy, fresh smell of mown grass. The squishy, muddy ground, slopping against my feet. The chill of early morning cocooned in a giant sweatshirt and an even more giant dark roast with a shot of chocolate from Starbucks. Pulses racing. Fans cheering. The satisfying slap of leather on the insole of a cleat.
It’s that time of year. The time when every Saturday morning is spent at the soccer fields. Not that different than fall in attire, gear and schedules, but the attitude, the atmosphere is like it’s from a different district altogether.
Fall soccer buzzes with the start of a new school year, new teams, grueling heat, fierce competition. Spring soccer is shorter, random, more congenial, do I dare say it -- relaxed.
In the fall, groups of boys within 24 months of each other’s birthdays and girls within 24 months of each other’s birthdays pass, dribble and shoot together. But in the spring, due to the large clumps of players lost to the ball diamonds – there are co-ed teams, the age spans of leagues goes up to 36, sometimes 48 months!
Teams always seem to be running late, short a player or two. How do you handle that? Sub, trade, swap. What other sport or season takes its best player and loans it to the other team? What other fans cheer for all the players on both teams, because at some point in their sons’ or daughters’ sports careers the other players from both teams have been on their teams?
It is a sport season like no other. Don’t get my wrong. Fall soccer, with all its intensity and speed and skill are an absolute thrill. But, there is so much to be learned from this softer, spring version of the international sport. So much to be gained by teaching players and fans alike what’s truly of value:
Sharing - of players, fields, equipment, high fives, resources
Sportsmanship – valuing all players, old or young, big or small, experienced or newbies for what they add to the game
Appreciation – for the other team, for your own team, the other parents, the refs, a Saturday in April without lightning, the sport, time to play, time to cheer, time to bond
Sounds like the Golden Rule to me: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
Many will argue, that the thrill of the game is embedded in the rivalry. But I will argue back, that the true thrill of the game is playing our best, cheering our loudest, meeting new people and appreciating their talents and strengths.