I am a soccer mom – and proud of it too. This is our ninth year in a row of having at least one (or more) kids playing soccer through our local AYSO region, and also my third year of volunteering on the regional board as Girls Registrar. It makes for a hectic time of year, but it’s totally worth all the time and energy to watch the kids play every week and see how much fun they’re having – win or lose.
All three girls are playing soccer again this fall, so we’ve been juggling practices and games for the past couple of months. This is the time of year when being a one-vehicle family really gets challenging – in fact we’ve realized that the girls aren’t really going to get less busy as they get older, so we are considering buying a (cheap) second vehicle, probably in the spring, so that we will have more flexibility in terms of being able to get everyone where they need to go.
Abbi is playing in the U14 division this year – the way it works in our region is that the U14 girls play in the fall only and the U14 boys play only in the spring. This frees the kids up to play for the middle school team during the other half of the season. Therefore, since the U14 kids only get to play half of an AYSO season, they get more than the usual six weeks of practices and games. Abbi has two practices each week plus a game most Saturdays – and the team is playing a total of seven games this fall. We only have enough girls for one U14 team – they play against U14 teams from other local regions, which is something new to our family. And it’s been interesting to see how our kids compare to other regions – definitely a learning experience both as a mom and as a board member.
Our U14 team has 16 girls – they play 11 v 11, so there are plenty of subs if everyone’s there. Since many of these girls are playing other sports and have other activities and commitments, having extra subs has been helpful. Most of the girls on the team are very good players. And then there are a few who, like Abbi, enjoy playing but aren’t the most aggressive players out on the field. Most of these girls haven’t played together before – there are even a couple who haven’t played AYSO at all before now. I’ve watched many of their practices and have been very impressed with how well they’re doing.
But wow, the other teams they’ve played against have been intense. And aggressive. And you can tell by watching them play that several of these teams have played together for longer than just a few weeks. They’ve got set plays and their passing is really tight – whereas our girls generally tend to just kick the ball in the correct direction and *hope* someone on the right team will be there to get it. The first game was a bit of culture shock – the other girls body checked ours (there were at least a dozen ‘tripping’ calls against the other team) and put their bodies in front of the ball in a way that our girls had never really practiced before. They’re practicing that now – and I’ve seen a huge step up in terms of aggressiveness. Abbi’s team has still lost four out of five games so far – but they’ve held their own well enough to keep the losses mostly down to single digits though.
Abbi is playing relatively well – she knows what to do with the ball when she gets it but just isn’t very aggressive about going after it or holding onto it once she’s got it. She gets in some really good passes – and had an assist in one of the games. She’s excited to play – does the two 1-1/2 hour practices each week with no complaints or anything and still wants to play for the middle school team in the spring. I’m really proud of her. Abbi’s team has this Saturday off and then plays their last two games over the last two Saturdays in October.
Hannah is thrilled to be playing soccer again after being sidelined last spring after her surgery. She’s playing in the U12 division this year and definitely hasn’t missed a beat. Her leg is doing great and she hasn’t had any pain or weakness at all. Other than the scars, you’d never know what she went through less than six months ago. Her team’s had about an equal mix of wins, losses and ties – they’re very competitive with the other team, but don’t quite seem to be able to score often enough to win more games. Last week’s game was very evenly matched – it was scoreless up until the last quarter when the other team popped off two goals almost right in a row at the very end. She has this Saturday off and plays her last game next weekend.
Hannah is definitely a much more aggressive player than either of her sisters and does well with any position she plays. She prefers not to play goalkeeper – but does a very good job when she has to. She’s been working on her punting skills since the goalies generally punt the ball at this level rather than throw it out to their team after a save. And she’s been practicing her soccer ball juggling any chance she gets too and is getting pretty good at it, which makes her ball handling quite a bit better on the ground as well.
It’s so strange to go back and forth between Abbi and Hannah’s games on the big fields (Abbi plays on the high school-sized field and Hannah’s isn’t much smaller) to Becca’s U8 games. The girls play so differently at the younger age levels – the coaches spend as much time getting the girls to spread out and un-clump as with skills and strategy. Becca’s team started out really strong with three high-scoring wins, then lost a game and ended in a 1-1 tie last weekend (another game that was scoreless until the fourth quarter).
Becca is a pretty happy-go-lucky soccer player. She gets right in there but has a tendency to trip over the ball or miss it entirely at times. And she still tends to want to stop and line up the ball before passing or shooting it, which just offers the other team extra time to come in and steal it away from her. She’s definitely improved over last year though – and she’s got a wonderful coach this year who is both very supportive of all the girls on the team, and very good at teaching them both skills and strategy. She’s really been having a lot of fun – her last game is this coming Saturday.
We’ve had a few time conflicts with practices and games, but not too bad this fall. We missed Hannah’s second game and Abbi’s third, but have made it to most of them and to all of Becca’s. It is nice to have soccer slowing down a bit now though, especially with other activities ramping up. The spring should be easier, since Abbi’s practices and games will all be after school instead of evenings and weekends, and she’ll be practicing right at her middle school field. This will be our first experience with school sports, and I’m kind of excited to see her wear our district’s colors for the first time and to have the chance to cheer on her team come spring.