I have been meaning for some time now to capture the wonder of your fall soccer season.
Your team has eight players. Three of them know what they are doing. I am in awe of these three little beings who give a hearty kick to the ball, scamper after it, and then kick it again toward your team’s goal. This is a difficult concept for 4-year-olds to master.
For most players on your team, the mission is simple: Kick the ball into a goal — any goal. As the best player on your team dribbles the ball down the field, he is confronted by a girl in a cobalt uniform identical to his own. His eyes widen with confusion and a bit of panic. She swings. She misses the ball and instead whacks his shin. The swarm moves on down the field.
You are not in that swarm. You are playing right field during this match, as you do during every match. You watch the ball only to make sure that you are clear of it. You spread your legs and hold your arms out at robotic angles. Now you straighten your arms and lunge ahead. You are voguing in right field.
A sudden break brings the swarm toward you. You freeze. A player brushes your shoulder. You pause to consider this, and then you buckle at the knees and perform a slow-motion collapse. The other players do not notice. They have crossed the white spray-painted line at the field’s edge and are kicking the ball past a huddle of oak trees. Now they are steamrolling into the parking lot, with coaches, referees, and a few parents giving chase.
You continue sitting in the field, waiting for someone to notice. You will be taken out of the game for a few minutes, and you will sit in my lap. This is your favorite part.
The players have returned to the field, and the game resumes. Three players from your team have left the swarm and are squatting on the other end of the field. They have begun an archaeological dig in a muddy divot. Their fingers poke and pry, enlarging the excavation site. The coaches run onto the field and shoo the children back to the game.
It is your turn to return to the field. You refuse to budge, and I push you from my lap. “Your team needs you,” I say, because this is what I have heard parents say in movies and on television during critical moments. And they do. Another girl is leaving the game because of an untied shoelace.
You drag your feet as you return to the field. The game resumes, and the parents cheer. “Go Chickens!” Though most of us can already see our dreams of soccer scholarships fading, we are happy to be there. We have so much hope wrapped up in you. And we know that someday, somehow, you will find your place.