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Soccer Girl

There are a couple of areas of parenting in which I admit freely that I have given up. One of them was enrolling my kids in activities that would teach them the basics of group sports, especially those dreaded sports that depend on catching balls. You see, I grew up in a baseball and hockey family. I also have very bad eyes. So in my youth I did learn to throw a baseball pretty well, and skate well enough to get around, but when a ball came at me, I’d see two of them. I’d have just enough time to think, “eenie, meenie, miney, moe” and then if I didn’t duck the darn thing would hit me in the face.

Not surprisingly, I never tried hockey. I wanted to keep my teeth.

When my son, whose eyes are perfect, expressed his dread of signing up for sports, it wasn’t a big deal to me. I also thought of my sister, whose family schedule revolved around whether her son’s team was winning. And there was that husband I chose, who, like me, prefers solitary, man-battling-his-own-limitations sports. I eased my conscience by making sure that my son is enrolled in a school that has P.E.

So when my daughter mentioned that she wanted to play soccer, it hardly registered. It was like she’d said “I want to be princess of the universe,” one of those passing fancy things. (Well, OK, it is not a passing fancy that she is, in fact, Empress of the Universe!) But then she said it again. And then a flyer turned up in her box at school. “I want to go to soccer camp,” she announced. And she was serious.

The flyer was from an outfit called Santa Cruz Soccer. I know nothing about local soccer groups. But they had something they called “economy camp,” and that seemed to fit the bill. I signed her up. The appointed day was the other day, and we turned up with bells on. “Oh, the economy camp? You didn’t get a call?”

I suddenly knew that things were going to go badly… but then they didn’t! “No problem,” said Bill, who runs the camp. He got a couple of teenagers to take my daughter onto the field, and she was gone, totally hooked in. He explained that they’d had to cancel my daughter’s camp, but that they’d just work her into the one that was going on.

It was at that point that I had to start into my standard speech about my daughter’s behavioral oddities. People sometimes find it surprising at first that I stay to watch her, given that she’s not a clingy kid and seems so completely with it… till she isn’t. Although I don’t want to prejudice people, I think they’re better off forewarned and she’s better off if I’m there to support her and help teachers understand her needs. Bill was totally understanding. He and one of his coaches, Katie, told me that they got lots of kids who have behavioral difficulties, and in fact Katie works with special needs kids during the schoolyear.

I felt like I’d walked into a place where I was understood, and where I just didn’t have to say anymore. It was a fabulous feeling. So was watching my six-year-old out on that field. I noticed that they kept someone — a teenage counselor or a coach — on her all the time, which is what she needs. She was happy and confident.

This is how I wish all the things my kids take part in were run: The people running it don’t bother worrying about whether the mix-up was my mistake or theirs. They find a way to include children who don’t fit in. They’re relaxed about the kids’ behavior, but also prepared to take care of whatever they get. When a kid needs something different than the rest of the kids, they find a way to accommodate.

My daughter was so in love with the experience that she was relatively easy to deal with. Some other kids had various “issues,” though, and I watched the staff take care of them supportively and firmly. They didn’t coddle the kids; they were just realistic about the differences between kids and what they are able to do. I guess that perhaps in this regard they have an easier job than a classroom teacher, but I bet if I saw these same people at work during the schoolyear, they’d be just as impressive.

Some people get kids. It’s such a joy to find them and watch them work their magic.

Posted in Education, Psychology.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. The year in review: Energy Girl rocks! – Avant Parenting linked to this post on December 9, 2009

    […] In the summer, my daughter discovered soccer. […]

  2. Camp every day! Camp all year round! – Avant Parenting linked to this post on July 24, 2010

    […] After Renaissance Camp, we took some time off camp to travel and relax, then she was back at it with Santa Cruz Soccer Camp. Again, I have not one complaint to lodge. Like last year, the program was lovely, my daughter was very happy, and she learned a whole lot more than just soccer moves. I wrote an article about Santa Cruz Soccer last year and also blogged about it. […]

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