so many different scenarios during the struggle are what truly make it “the beautiful game.” it’s never just goals or magical touches, sometimes it’s just about strength, will and physics.
i don’t claim to be much more than a sports fan, i’m no expert on the intricacies of what it takes to be “next level” but i do think upon thoughtful study of sport, be it soccer, basketball, football, tennis, volleyball – you get the point – the ability to accurately anticipate opponents’ intentions is a requisite skill that separates “great” athletes from “good” athletes. youth soccer players with that ability to see the next play before it develops, then willing that play to develop are the game changers. it doesn’t happen at the same rate with young footballers, it’s a process to have a team get that mind-meld where they all begin to anticipate what’s next and react accordingly. i know as a fan, it’s sure fun to watch it come together. it’s art.
when you have the ball in soccer, basketball, football, well, in any sport where you have control of the ball and you dupe the opposition with a move, a fake, a feint and they fall for it…we call it “breaking ankles.” you know, like “hey, i just broke that kid’s ankles.”
i have a thought pertaining to art, music, sport…
if you are any good at all, then you know that you can be better. i played some football in my youth, screamed in a band, took some photos, talked for hours a day on the radio, made some art, wrote some words, basically i failed at a whole litany of “things.” i can honestly say i was never that good at any of those “things,” but i was good enough to understand that i needed to improve, and that i could. now with young boys, there’s an ego, there’s a “i’m the best at this” attitude that helps drive them. you never want to smother that, but you do want them to understand that there really never is a “best.” you are in charge of pushing yourself to this unobtainable notion of an invisible measuring stick. now, you can use stats, or the eyeball test, or success as a gauge in anything your are doing but none of those things truly can give you a scale to mark your personal “better.” i am proud that boy #1 and boy #2 manage to push themselves to be better in so many ways. there’s maturity there that i didn’t possess at their ages when it comes to drive and fortitude. that’s kind of a big deal. it’s serving them well.
when i snap a frame at a soccer match, i think i am trying capture a story in 1/500th of a second that speaks to “getting better.” i doesn’t always work, it maybe never works as a public narrative–but to me, what i see here is a boy, who looks more like a man, compared to the opposition. he is running towards a ball not in the frame, and he has already beaten a pair of kids mentally, they are giving up, he isn’t. he doesn’t know they have, he doesn’t care whether they have or not. he has focus, he is finding a maturity. he sent me a text the night before a full weekend of soccer matches, it said, “i don’t even care. like i literally could be playing against college kids or a 2-year-old. i really don’t care at all.” he is making his soccer game, about his role, not about others. he’s getting better.
“We’re living in a funny world kid, a peculiar civilization. The police are playing crooks in it, and the crooks are doing police duty. The politicians are preachers, and the preachers are politicians. The tax collectors collect for themselves. The bad people want us to have more dough, and the good people are fighting to keep it from us. It’s not good for us, know what I mean? If we had all we wanted to eat, we’d eat too much. We’d have inflation in the toilet paper industry. That’s the way I understand it. That’s about the size of some of the arguments I’ve heard.”
—Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me
what you quickly find out if you are lucky enough to have a child who takes to some “thing”–soccer, or writing, or singing, or whatever that “thing” is they take to–is that none of these “things” can be faked. these “things” become a feeling, a passion, a lifestyle. they spend the time when they aren’t doing these “things”, preparing to do these “things”…better. not to say it’s obsessively unhealthy, but it does envelope life and become part of the skin of being. success becomes important, yes, but you hope they are getting the fact that each moment, each experience will be about more than just success or failure. as i watch from the sidelines, literally or virtually with a phone or screen of some kind, i find myself wanting to scream…”enjoy all of this, every second, it all passes too fast.” but they have to find all that out on their own, they aren’t gonna buy it from me, yet. so i just say, find your ball, learn its circumference, its weight and like the back of your hand, be able to pick it out in the dark. it will serve you if you serve it.
in a mere two days, the struggle begins again, Spring springs into soccer season. the fun, the pain, the joy, the want, the jubilation, the disappointment. i would not trade some of these moments for anything, here’s to hours in the car for a few moments of beauty. the first weekend, the Cincy Elite College Showcase, can’t wait.
this is a late Fall image, against the #1 team in the country at our age group at the CASL tournament. there’s only one way to get better, play the best.
yes, yes, it approaches. the spring season of soccer in the midwest/south. miles on the road between kentucky, ohio, virginia, tennessee, indiana and the like. dreams of trophies and cups. and getting better, always better–ball to foot, earphones to head, foot to gas, smiles to faces. sun-up will be here before we know it and we will start that day.