The Little Cats are in the Barn

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I took to the sideline with a twinge of sadness this morning because it was the last game of the season for the mighty Sea Lions of the MFBC Upward Fall Soccer League and unfortunately, we were a little shorthanded today.

Right off, I missed my little cotton-topped Garrison with his front-toothless smile, but he was at a father-son camp-out weekend and I could hardly begrudge him that. Thomas and I agreed of all the bambinos, he “grew”. He was already a first class shooter and in the early games, he worried more about the score than the team, but as the season progressed, he picked up new skills, including a tremendous ability to find an open teammate with a great pass. He also calmed down considerably from the ball of energy and bounce who showed up at the first practice to hang on my legs and shoulders. He was really a fun kid to be around.

We also missed Tru today and that worried me most of all because his mom was in charge of snacks for after the game. I didn’t really care about snacks, but Tru missed the last practices following our penultimate. I missed that game also after an ER visit to get Budge’s gall bladder checked, but Thomas told me Tru had an “incident” where he beat on one of our girls during his session on the sidelines. Knowing Tru, he was showing affection, but it was unnerving to the little lady and her parents and I certainly understand. Immediately after the final horn Tru’s, mom scooped him up and hurried away; that was the last we saw him. Thomas’ reminder email went unanswered. I wish I could say Tru matured as much as the others, but he didn’t and I’m pretty sure it’s because Tru has more pressing problems on his little mind than soccer. I hope he’ll come out the other side okay. I know the road he’s on and I hope something I said sticks with him in the darkness ahead.

At first, I was worried Sophie might not show because she missed practice Tuesday, which is completely unlike her. We found out today when she showed up what caused her absence. She and her parents spent a week at DisneyWorld! I now know she doesn’t like Space Mountain — too dark — but she loved Splash Mountain and Thunder River and she met Mickey and ate at Cinderella’s Castle and saw all the fireworks and stayed in a neat hotel and got mouse ears with her name on them and voted for Pooh and not Captain Hook and WHEW! . . . well, you get the idea! We learned this during the game as she related each part of the story of her dream vacation while standing next to Thomas or me as the ball was in play, but on the other end of the field and therefore of less concern in the moment than the happiest place on earth. Did I mention Sophie is a darling, intelligent ONLY CHILD? She is not doted upon, but it’s obvious who the family’s centers on. I will really miss her.

I’ll still get to see little Lauren on at least a weekly basis since she’s my co-coach’s daughter and the reason he, then I, got into this gig in the first place. She improved a lot over the season, especially in endurance. Our first practices, she spent walking instead of running, but today, she managed to play the entire game non-stop. She is a precious little lady even if TREMENDOUSLY dramatic! Her parents are in the same community group at church as Budge and me and for the first several months, she didn’t care much for me. I’d speak to her, but she’d walk away with all the haughtiness a six-year-old can muster. After the first practice, though, she started talking my ears off. When her mother asked her why, Lauren’s reply was, “Oh Mom, Mr. Shannon’s my COACH!” Apparently, that makes it all different!

Now Jonas didn’t need to build up his endurance. For the entire season, he was never still. If he was standing, he was hopping from leg to leg. Sitting in the circle during half-time devotions, he bounced on his bottom, his energy level off any scale. I mentioned to Thomas if we could bottle Jonas’ energy, we’d make a fortune. I don’t think he knows how to walk; he ran full tilt everywhere he went, on the field and off. Of all the team, he was THE most competitive. Even when we reminded him the object was to have fun, he was always keenly aware of the “score.” He was a phenomenal player and we didn’t teach him much he didn’t already know, but he was a ball of energy on the field and always got the team going, even if he was prone to take the ball from anyone on the field, including his mates!

One frequent victim of Jonas’ ball theft was little Collin. Collin is without a doubt one of the ten cutest children I know. His round little face is capable of such exquisite expression, from extreme irritation, usually after someone took the ball from him, to boundless euphoria when he infrequently scored a goal. Oh I loved being around that child. I swear he could charm an angel. I felt we didn’t have a great start because he didn’t speak to Thomas or me during the first two practices or games. He’d just look when I called his name to put him in. I asked his daddy if he was quiet and dad grinned — a mirror image of his youngest son — and said, “Oh, just wait til he decides he likes you.” he started liking us halfway through the third practice and when he started talking, he didn’t stop. I didn’t mind though because even his voice was adorable.

There’s not one of my seven little soccer kittens I wouldn’t take into my own home in a skinny minute. I told all the parents I’d be glad to take them off their hands. Of course, they know I have no children so I got more than one knowing smile and nod. Apparently, I do not know of what I speak!

I still can’t believe I spent three months coaching these itty-bitties, but it was some of the greatest fun I’ve ever had in my life. Lauren wants to play in the spring, so hopefully Coach Thomas and Coach Shannon can put together another group of amazing soccer babies!

Here’s hoping. Love y’all and clean your soccer cleats!

 

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