In the fall of 2006, I escorted the most excited four-year-old ever to the soccer field for the first time. Well, not the first time she’d ever been at a soccer field – I’d been chasing her off her older sister’s practice and game fields since she was a toddler. This was the first time, however, that Hannah was at her very own soccer practice. And she absolutely loved playing.
Hannah’s first season of AYSO soccer was in the Jamboree (U5) program, where the kids gather as one large group, learn a new skill each week (dribbling, passing, etc.) and then break down into small groups to practice the skill and then do a 3v3 scrimmage with no goalies. Basically the kids run up and down the field and score a lot of goals. It’s all very exciting for four-year-olds and a great introduction to the game.
The next season, Hannah eagerly took the field as a U6 player, on her first official soccer ‘team’. They’re still learning the basics at this point, but Hannah loved playing goalie for the first time and she eagerly ran up and down the field in her purple AYSO uniform.
2008 was Hannah’s first year of U8 soccer. The kids are refining what they already know and learning to play positions. This was the season of the ‘highlighter yellow’ uniform – the girls were definitely hard to miss on the field. Hannah still loved playing goalie, but she was a great player on the field as well.
After Hannah’s second season of AYSO U8 soccer, we considered moving her to travel soccer after her current coach as well as a previous coach suggested it. In the end, we stayed with AYSO in part because we couldn’t afford the cost of everything travel soccer entails, but also because Hannah enjoyed playing with (and against) her friends.
Hannah’s first U10 soccer team was called the ‘Pink Jigglypuffs’ because one of her teammates had a Jigglypuff costume (it’s a Pokemon) and offered to wear it at their games. Several siblings ended up taking turns as mascot, including Abbi a few times. Hannah wasn’t thrilled with the bright pink uniform but still loved every moment on the soccer field. This was the last year that she played goalie on a regular basis, after deciding that she “wasn’t any good at it”.
Hannah only played the fall season for her second year on U10. In the spring of 2013, she underwent surgery to remove a tumor from her right knee and was forced to sit out from the spring season as a Lavender Lightning Bolt. Finding out that she would miss soccer that spring was devastating to Hannah – it was the only time she cried about anything that she underwent that year.
By fall, Hannah had finished physical therapy and was happily back on the soccer field for her first U12 AYSO season.
The two halves of Hannah’s second U12 season were extremely different. The fall season was typical in all ways, but over the winter we discovered that Hannah’s tumor had recurred in her left lung and she began chemotherapy treatments in January 2015. She played soccer that spring, even though she didn’t have the strength or stamina that she was used to.
It’s hard to look at the difference in how she looked between just the fall 2014 (above) and spring 2015 (below) soccer seasons. She’d lost about 10 pounds over the winter, along with her hair.
In our AYSO region, the U14 division plays only half a season. This is because the kids are generally of middle school age, so it allows them to be eligible to play for their school teams as well. Girls play school soccer in the spring, so our U14 girls season for AYSO is fall-only. During Hannah’s first U14 season last fall, she was still undergoing chemo treatments. She played as much soccer as she physically was able, as long as her blood counts were high enough.
Hannah finished chemo last November and played for her middle school’s 7th grade team this past spring. She’d gained back the weight she lost but still was lacking in stamina and strength. By the end of the season, she looked more like the player she’d been before chemo.
This fall, Hannah has played her second and last U14 AYSO season. The photo above is from her game this past Saturday, and this coming Saturday is her very last AYSO game.
After 10 seasons over 9 years, Hannah’s AYSO career will be finished – as our region doesn’t have teams above the U14 division. She’ll continue to try out for the school teams, so we’ll hopefully still see her out on the soccer field for a while yet. And we’re not done being an AYSO family yet either – my youngest has a few years left before we’ll say goodbye to her AYSO days. It will be strange to only have one game on Saturdays from now on though!