alex just finished his outdoor soccer season. i fear it may be his last as next year he will be in high school, and i think the nature of the game changes once you get to that next level. i recall my own sports life, meager as it was, drying up post junior high.
alex's soccer life has been exciting to watch on a few dimensions. first, when he was in third grade they re-shuffled his district's elementary schools, and we got switched to a new school. there were multiple advantages to this change, but one of the more noticeable was that alex fell into an unusually advanced group of soccer players. i attribute this phenomenon to a number of the boys in his grade were the youngest children in their families so had learned the sport in backyards and local parks against much older opponents. and this early training took place under sibling-law which for those with older brothers and sisters (marty had five, three of which were males) know to be a more daunting experience than might be imposed on them by any rule-following, minimum-wage referee. this translated to a better skilled and weathered set of kids that would never face a foe they would deem intimidating--a mindset that might mean more than we will ever know.
the second fun-to-watch thing was alex's slow-drip development. something that helped alex is he always preferred playing defense. the reason behind this, i believe, stems from how bad his former school team was, and by that i mean we were quite bad. because of this, we played lots and lots of defense, and as a result, all of our kids were above average defenders. the aggressive and offense-minded kids at alex's new school loved a player who said he didn't want to play mid or forward but only wanted to stay in the back defending the goal. that always got him a clap on the back and an invite to the first team.
something extra has happened with alex this year—his understanding of the game and his play mechanics have grown significantly. he holds his ground with confidence even captaining the surrounding players in the heat of an attack. his development, particularly in this last year has been surprising. but we're all pretty sure alex won't continue to play into high school. i say 'pretty-sure' because when alex learned the teams practice for four or five days a week, he put a hand up and said, "i'm out." i can't really fault him—it's a big ask.
i may be the saddest of everyone involved to see his competitive play come to an end. i can't help but wonder if his recent gains would continue if he kept playing. but we all have a few unfinished chapters in our story, no? so akin to a number of other facets of parenthood (and life), i will give my gratitude for the experience we had, and look ahead for what we will find around life's next bend.