Today, our son Theo tried out for AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) soccer (football, dammit, for my non-American readers!). This came as a bit of a surprise. After years of claiming soccer was his favorite sport yet refusing to join local soccer teams and opting for baseball instead, he suddenly wanted to play the beautiful game. Perhaps it was because one of his coaches in sports camp a couple of weeks ago told him he was surprisingly good at soccer for someone who doesn’t play. As many of us well know, a single compliment from someone we barely know can be a powerful thing. A week or so ago, I was talking with the father of one of his friends, who happens to be one of the local AYSO coaches. When he told me the tryouts were this weekend, I asked Theo if he’d be up for it, and he said, “Yeh, sure” with a relatively enthusiastic tone in his voice. So, today we headed for the tryouts at the grounds of the local middle school.
As the midday sun beat down onto the Astroturf, a hundred or so kids dressed in every possible color of t-shirts, shorts and cleats practiced dribbling, passing and shooting in the rubbery-smelling heat. Coaches observed and encouraged as some of the passes connected with the receiver while other balls rolled off into the parking lot. This was the first time we’ve seen Theo play soccer in five years. He was pretty darn good. I had coached some of the kids in Theo’s preschool because my soccer skills are only suitable to teach 4-5 year olds. Since then, Theo had resisted the game, but somehow, today he seemed physically and emotional on the ball, as it were, confident enough in his physical abilities to take on the new challenge.
Now as if seeing my son embrace a new challenge whole-heartedly, without a single whine or a single screen involved, wasn’t enough to warm my heart, the local AYSO also made it possible for me to give away Theo’s old cleats. In a tent beside the registration and water tent was a collection of cleats, t-shirts, socks and shin guards given by families of kids who had outgrown them. As Theo helped himself to some shin guards and stuffed them into his socks, I donated Theo’s bright green Nike cleats (a hand-me-down already) to the collection, thanking the soccer gods for shining down so brightly on me today.