I have to admit that indoor soccer is much more exciting than outdoor soccer. In indoor soccer, there is no out-of-bounds (unless the ball hits the nets above the field) and the ball is played off the walls. In fact, the better players use the wall as part of their strategy. Michael has been playing recreational soccer for the last 4 years: two outdoor seasons and two indoor seasons every year.
Soccer is a good sport for Michael, it moves quickly and there is a lot of strategy involved. This season (summer indoor) he was playing 5th/6th co-ed. Most of the boys (there was only one girl on their team), Michael had played with before. We found a coach that we really like and Michael has been playing with him for almost 2 years. The hiccup is that the coach’s son is a grade ahead of Michael – so, we’ve been playing Michael up. What that means is that even though Michael is a 5th grader, he has played 5th/6th grade soccer for the last year. Honestly, playing up shouldn’t be a big deal. Michael is smaller than a lot of the kids, but he is only 6 weeks or so younger than some of them because his birthday is in October.
The last 2 years, Michael has had to work very hard to “catch-up” with some of the other soccer players. Michael started playing when he was in 1st grade and we moved to Colorado, while many of his peers have been playing since they were mini-mites (3-4 year-olds). Also, Michael is somewhat small for his age and he has a slight build. This makes him very fast, but he can be intimidated by some of the kids that are bigger than he is (he is sometimes afraid that they will accidentally hurt him).
During the last 4 seasons Michael has not scored a goal. He has assisted, but not scored himself. Some of this is due to the fact that Michael prefers to play defense. It is also because Michael hasn’t kicked the ball hard enough or has kicked it right at the goalie. However, this indoor season, things changed. Michael scored a goal in a practice scrimmage against another team and then scored goals in 3 different games. It has been really exciting to watch.
The kids have played GREAT soccer. They have worked on passing and setting up plays. They have made sure that they have followed the ball after they’ve shot at the goal and made a number of goals with that second shot. They won most of their games. And all the games they won, they won by a lot. In fact, during one game, the referee told the kids to stop scoring goals. Since this is recreational soccer when one team is beating the other by more than 4 goals, the losing team gets to add 1 player to the field so that they are playing 8 on 7. I don’t have a problem with that. The kids are supposed to be having fun and it is no fun to lose by a lot. The kids on Michael’s team were winning by 10 points. They were taking their time and passing the ball and really working as a team. And they were scoring goals – this is when the referee told them to stop. But what were they supposed to do? Not shoot? How is that playing soccer? The strong players were working to make sure that everyone on their team got to shoot (and try to score), they weren’t aggressively going to score. And a lot of the kids who had never scored a goal, scored during this game. It wasn’t the same kid scoring over and over again.
I guess my problem stems from the fact that Michael’s indoor team, last season, lost every single game. And they weren’t even close. They would lose 15-0. The kids play 20 minute halves – so in 40 minutes the other team scored 15 goals (or more in some games). It was very frustrating to watch. The difference was that the other teams were made up of kids from “club” teams. Club teams around here practice several times a week during the fall and spring. There are the “super-star” players who score the majority of the goals. Rather than emphasising skills, these teams focus on the competition. I believe in competition, but if a sport is supposed to be recreational then it is unfair to have competitive teams come in and play. And last indoor season, it was horribly unfair. The kids were just deflated when they walked off the field. It was so difficult to watch as a parent.
It is interesting to note that a lot of the kids that were on that losing team, were on this winning team. The majority of the kids that lost during the last indoor season, were the winners this indoor season. But this time there were no competitive teams that came to play – perhaps there were some individual players who played competitive soccer, but they didn’t come over as entire teams. This time it was fair and they kids really learned to play SOCCER (not how to deal with constant defeat).
All in all, I love that Michael loves soccer. Although I won’t be saying that when it is cold and I am sitting outside bundled up.