This kick…

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Yep, this exact kick, caught on film (so to speak) for posterity.

You have to understand that this kick was a fluke in more ways than one.

I have never before seen my kid attempt to put any part of her body in front of the soccer ball during the eight seasons that she has played. When she was younger, she was the one out in the middle of the field picking grass and staring at the clouds instead of paying attention to the game.

She took two years off from soccer when she was 8 and 9 years old, and tried softball for one season. After declaring softball, “too boring”, she decided to go back to soccer at age 10 and has played straight through up until this season – her last with AYSO since our region only goes up through U14 and Abbi will turn 14 next April. Since the U14 girls only play in the fall, these next few weeks are her last AYSO games. Ever.

Every season I’ve seen Abbi’s playing improve, but she is still not the most aggressive player out on the field. Not by a long shot. But she is enthusiastic, cheers (loudly) for her teammates, and tries her best at every practice and game.

Over this past week, something had energized Abbi – she came home from Monday’s practice raving about how she had “finally figured out” defense, which is her favorite position to play. And all week she had done something she’d never done before – practiced soccer at home on her own (or with Hannah, who takes no convincing at all to go out and kick a soccer ball around). We got to yesterday’s game in the afternoon excited to see if we would notice a difference in her playing.

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And we did.

She sat out for the first quarter, but during the second quarter she got some playing in. She ran harder than I’ve ever seen her run before.

And when there was a corner kick by the other team near the end of the second quarter, Abbi got right in front of the goal with her teammates and did something I’d never seen or expected from her – she put herself in front of the ball as it flew toward her, and reached up with her right foot to block it.

This kick. Which has made me so very proud of her.

This kick – which on a completely wild fluke, ricocheted off of Abbi’s foot, flew back over the heads of both teams gathered in front of the goal, eluded the grasping hands of her team’s goalie, and scored a goal – for the other team.

Abbi felt horrible. We could see it in her face and her drooping posture, as she faced her teammates heading off of the field for the halftime break. Her coach gave her a pep talk, but as she sat out for the third quarter and watched her teammates play, we knew she was dwelling on it.

During the fourth quarter of the game, Abbi again played defense, and she played more aggressively than I’d ever seen her before. Her team still lost (5-1), but she told us later that she was trying to make up for “that which we will not speak of” from the end of the second quarter of the game.

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We did talk about it – a little. Enough to tell her how proud we are of her for playing her very best and trying her hardest. Proud of her for taking a risk that she’d never taken before, and going for the block.

No matter the outcome, the fact that she put herself out there – makes me the proudest soccer mom ever.