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Zen and the Art of Soccer

October 24, 2012

Lilly’s twice a week soccer practice has become a surprisingly enjoyable addition to our family’s schedule. It gets us out of the house on weeknights and gives us an opportunity to change up our evening routine. The 8:30 games on Saturday mornings come a little early for my taste but rising early gives us more hours to enjoy the day together. Central Texas is finally on the cusp of fall and the mornings have been cool and crisp giving way to pleasant afternoon temperatures.

I was hesitant to sign her up for soccer as she’s just 4 1/2 and this would be her first organized activity. One evening at dinner Craig and I asked her if she’d like to play soccer and she loved the idea. Of course she also loves the idea of ballet, acting, karate, gymnastics, swimming, bike riding AND being a rock star! She is just plain excited. We explained that once she made the commitment to start she would have to finish – it is a family rule that we always do our best to follow through. She was still interested. After further parental discussion it seemed the benefits of her new activity would outweigh the time obligation. Lilly would have to work with others on a team, practice her listening, learn to focus and would get lots of exercise. The cute uniform would be a bonus, too!

Lilly’s team is composed of 4 to 6 year olds and she is one of the youngest at 4 1/2. Most of the children are older or have played previously and are quite focused. At practice the other evening the team was lined up and performing zipper drills. Instead of watching the ball Lilly kept looking up at a huge oak tree. She tugged on the leg of her coaches’ shorts and yelled loud enough for everyone to hear, “Coach, look! The leaves are starting to change color!”.

Part of me wanted to holler from the sidelines for her to pay attention but instead I watched in silence and smiled. Inside I was beaming just a little bit.

Oh, Lilly. While on the field she is usually good many steps behind the rest of her team – scanning the crowd for us. Then when she sees us she waves like crazy while grinning from ear to ear. She stops to pick flowers for the coaches, gives her teammates bear hugs when they score (or for no reason at all) and when a someone falls she runs over to help them up and brushes the dirt off their uniform. She is Miss Congeniality on a field of little Peles and Beckhams in the making. I appreciate the patience given to her by the coaches as they kindly, but firmly, direct her attention back to the game.

She is learning the fundamentals of playing a game and working as a team. She is learning to listen to her coaches, focus and follow instructions. She is getting exercise and making her body stronger. She is learning to make decisions and is gaining self confidence. Most of all she is out on that field being kind, wonderful, curious, gregarious, enthusiastic Lilly.

Soccer may, or may not, be her thing. My greatest hope for both Lilly and Marley is that they always try their best, have fun and follow through – no matter where they go or what they do in life.

And I hope they always take time, now and then, to stop and pick a few flowers along the way.

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