I have had a real love-hate relationship with soccer going all the way back to my youth.
I never really played the sport. Not that I can remember at least. In our old neighborhood, we grew up with a baseball glove and ball, a basketball and a bike. If there was a soccer ball around, we didn’t do much with it.
Sometime in junior high, The Kansas City Comets appeared on my radar. I don’t remember the first game I went to at Kemper Arena, but I remember I had to go back. Maybe it was the light show before the game. Or the pure energy of a few thousand people (never any more than that as I recall) shrieking as the players were announced and ran onto the indoor soccer field.
They made entrances as if they were the most popular and famous athletes on the planet. And, at the time, they were to us. They had names like Jan Goossens, Alan Mayer, Ed Gettemeier and Gino Schiraldi.
The days of the Comets faded and I turned to the world of sports writing. Some time in 1996, I covered my first high school soccer game. Not long after, I covered my first high school girls’ soccer game, an epic 0-0 tie that went four overtimes and had no end in sight.
I think that’s when I started mildly mocking the sport. Although I did, and still do, openly acknowledge that the soccer players are often some of the best athletes in the schools.
So, I knew the day was coming when Addy would want to hit the soccer field. She started asking for a soccer ball last fall and, once the purple wonder was purchased and brought home, she started asking to take it outside and “play” a game against me.
When it came time for a soccer “team” then, Addy was ready. Well, sort of.
First, she requested she play on an “all girls” team.
“Yeah, that’s probably not going to happen, girlie,” I told her. Of course, I am not all that disappointed that Addy wants to steer clear of the boys right now. But, at her age, the boys and girls play on the same team, I explained.
That earned me an eye roll. I’m used to it now.
Addy’s mom and I decided the Itty Bitty Soccer program through the Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation would be the best way to go to start our kiddo off on the right foot.
Of course, I had to wrap my head around my kiddo playing soccer. Yes, I realize millions of kids play it. Yes, I get that she’s not going to be mired in some four-hour-long tie game (God I hope).
At this age, soccer is more about the fundamentals of the game – passing, dribbling, teamwork and learning that the game isn’t 45 minutes of constant shooting the ball into the goal. Sometimes you have to, you know, be the goalie. Addy had a hard time with that.
The great part of Itty Bitty Soccer is that the parents are right there the whole time. And I mean right there. On the field.
Each parent is out there dribbling, passing, shooting and instructing with a slew of kiddos knocking a much smaller version of a soccer ball around.
And that’s where I renewed my appreciation for the sport. Right there, on the field with Addy. Observing the very beginnings of her learning to kick and interact and play the game.
I still haven’t been a Sporting Kansas City game, though. So, if you want to throw some tickets my way to convince me, please do.
Otherwise, I will be out at Miller J. Field on Saturday mornings watching and “coaching” my daughter and the other kids. For that brief moment in time, they are the stars of the show.