We’d had a good weekend. Between the two kids, we had participated in 5 games. Now was game #6, my daughter’s 3rd game of the City Cup Soccer Tournament. We had played the opposing team before, and knew that they were tough. But we had our game faces on. So far, the girls had tied the first game, and only lost the 2nd game by a couple goals. They were in high spirits because they had played their hardest, and they knew it.
The game started out competitively. Our defense was rock solid as we blocked numerous attempts at the goal. The goalie was in her A game as she slid on the grass to deflect the ball, and jumped in the air to catch another. But the ball stayed on our side of the field too many times and eventually they scored against us. The girls didn’t let it bother them, and laughed as they got back into position. ‘It’s alright, it’s just one.’ But then another slid past, and then another. It was enough to wear them thin, and their smiles faded as the whistle blew half time and they ran off the field. The score was 4-0.
The coach gave them a pep talk, let them know that they were playing great and to just get out there and do their best. Half time ended and our girls went out there, determined to win back what they had lost. Almost immediately the 5th goal was scored. The score was now 5-0. The other team, due to sportsmanship rules, was not allowed to score any more goals. It was a slap in the face. But it was our chance to move our defense up and help in the offense, and maybe still get our team on the board. But our spirits were down. And the other team’s spirit was inflated. One girl with some of the fanciest footwork I’ve seen proceeded to take the ball and move it back and forth across the field, making a cat and mouse game of it as our girls chased her back and forth. Several of the girls on the other team resorted to pushing and shoving our girls with no call ever made from the Ref. One of the repeat offenders kept shoving our girls repeatedly behind the Ref’s back, and sometimes in front of her. I watched as she picked on some of our smaller girls, blatantly shoving them when they had the ball so she could steal it back. And then I witnessed her doing it to my own daughter. The girl shoved her hard, my daughter stumbling over her feet as she lost the ball in the process. I looked at the Ref to see if she noticed. Nothing. Game on.
At the same time I heard a commotion over near our coach, and the whistle was called. One of our girls was down, a little firecracker who never seemed to be phased by pain when the ball would slam into her full force. But she was down on the ground, crumpled over in agony and tears. The Ref hadn’t noticed, but this girl’s mother sure had. The coach and mother ran out on the field. Anger flared as the mother questioned the Ref’s ability to do her job. As my daughter’s teammate was gathered up and carried off the field, our coach was issued a yellow card for the mother’s questioning.
We were all in a bad state. With 10 minutes left to play, we were ready for the game to end. It had stopped being fun. Our girls had lost their spirit, despite having played their best against a really good team. No matter how hard the game is played, it never feels good to lose. The other team was definitely skilled. But the brutality that went along with their skill, as well as the ill-timed yellow card, left a bad taste in our mouths. The game soberly ended and the score never changed. 5-0, we had lost.
My daughter helped gather up our belongings and walked quietly back to the car. She had very little to say. As we got home I could see that she was angry and dejected. We had just signed her up for indoor soccer, something that she had been begging for me to do for her. But the news that she was in was hardly exciting for her. The defeat blew the whole weekend up.
It’s hard to not let losses get in the way of the purpose of playing. A teammate plays because they love the game. And that is true about any one of those players. We walked into this tournament with our heads held high. The girls spray painted each other’s hair and giggled and cheered with each other. They got on the field and ran like they never ran before, attacking that ball in a way we had never seen. And even in the last game, they fought the bitter fight until the whistle ended the game. Some of the girls still held their smiles, wishing each other ‘good game’ as each one left. And some of the girls, like my daughter, took it personally. Knowing my daughter, she just needs some time to unwind and get over it in her own way. There is nothing I can say that will take away her disappointment. So far, pointing out how well she played has only fallen on deaf ears.
At any rate, the tournament is over. Our family survived the whirlwind of a weekend. And while this year was rough, it goes without saying that we will be back out there next year, anticipating the tournament as if we were waiting for Christmas.
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