Team Tornado

Claire participated in her first soccer game today. Not just that, but it was also her first ever organized sports game of any kind. Well, sort of organized, anyways… as organized as a bunch of four and five year olds chasing around a soccer ball without any teamwork or strategy can be. Still, it was, without a doubt, kids playing soccer.
Claire had asked me to sign her up for soccer after burning out on the old swimming/ballet routine at the YMCA over the last few months. Even with her friends Coco, Zoey, and Isa in the classes with her, the routine had turned into a grind. Claire had been interested in basketball ever since wandering into a YMCA youth league basketball game a couple of months ago after ballet class, but we had to wait for the next sport to come around, and that just happened to be soccer. Claire was not “into” soccer before this. We had kicked a ball around a few times in the back yard before, but she usually lost interest in favor of just running around, especially simple foot races back and forth, over and over.
Still, Claire was really excited to start soccer. And that we even before she knew she would get soccer gear. We made a trip to Academy late Wednesday night and picked up some silver and pink soccer shoes, pink shin guards, and pink shorts. We failed to find any pink socks that went up high enough for shin guards, so we had to settle for plain old white socks, but still, she looked really cute, if not 100% pink. The soccer league would be supplying the shirts, which were, sadly, black and red or gray. Those are not princess colors! Claire tried on her outfit in the car and surprised her mom with her new look. Claire looked like a real soccer player, and a surprisingly grown up one at that (but still really cute).

Claire had been assigned to Team Tornado via email, and we did not know any of the names on the Tornado roster. There would be one other girl on the team, named Francesca, and the rest were all boys. Overall, there were over 400 kids signed up for this season of soccer at this YMCA alone. I had decided to go with the YMCA soccer league instead of the heralded WAYA league simply because YMCA had games on Saturday mornings and no practices, while WAYA had Wednesday night games (seriously, every Wednesday?) plus weekend practices.
Claire’s first game was scheduled for today at 10 am, when Team Tornado would be opposed by the dreaded “Aztex”. That was all we knew going into today’s game. Before the game, Kit and I prepped Claire on the first (only?) rule of soccer: don’t touch the ball with your hands. Good enough crash course, right? I might have added “kick the ball towards the other team’s goal, and away from yours” but that was a relatively minor point, I suppose.
I took Claire to soccer while Kit took Molly for the morning, as Molly was already rubbing her eyes by about 9am and would clearly be needing a nap during the 10am game time.
You can see Claire running quickly, mostly towards the ball, in the middle-right of this picture
The team made some very quick introductions and got right into some pre-game drills. Claire looked pretty sharp for a kid who had kicked a soccer ball a total of about 8 times in her life. After about 10 minutes of drills, the game started. The herd of kids chased the ball around the small soccer field, and Claire chased the heard of kids chasing the ball around. Claire ran like crazy.  She seemed to be all over the place, always hovering about 5-8 feet from the ball. But she didn’t make much actual contact with the ball.

At halftime Claire seemed concerned and a little dismayed, and she sort of wanted to just go home. She said she could never get to the ball. I told her that she was running faster than almost any kid, and if she gets a chance, don’t worry and don’t wait; just kick the ball as hard as she can (I guess nevermind which direction the ball goes). In the second half, I prodded myself to yell out “Kick the ball, Claire!” whenever she was in range. She did get a few kicks on the ball this time around. She even managed to clear the ball from her home team’s goal area a couple of times. This seemed to make her feel marginally better, although she still was not having too much fun. When the final whistle blew, and the game seemed to stop, she ran over to me and said, “Is the game over?” I said, “I think so”, and she replied, “Yeah!!!”  I was proud of her for sticking through the whole game and even giving it something extra in the second half.  As far as I can tell, the Tornadoes probably lost, but the game’s outcome did not seem to be of any real significance to anyone.

Pre-game drills
After post-game snacks with the team, we walked towards the car, past the YMCA where her old ballet class would have just let out. We peaked in the window, and right there on cue were Coco, Zoey, and Isa, all dressed in tutus. We went in for a quick visit. When Isa’s mom asked Claire if she liked the soccer game, Claire hesitated and said, “A little bit.”, which seemed pretty accurate. Still, everyone agreed that Claire looked really good in her soccer outfit.
Time to cool it off

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