March 21, 2010

Soccer season - so far so good!

Soccer season has started. Alex has been going to practice everyday for about three weeks. She has her cleats, sports clothes and new shin guards packed in her athletic bag every morning. She is happy and enthusiastic every day when she goes to school. It is a nice time for us.

Alex has had two soccer games - she played in both. She did not play for a long time in each game, but she played twice in each game. She is proud and confident.

I was unable to attend either game; but this does not disturb me in the least. Lucky me, there are still ten games left, eight at home. I am okay missing the early season games; they are played in the snow and cold. Although it does seem spring-like today, I know how fickle the weather can be in the mountains. I am a fair weather soccer fan, Alex's father can go to the cold games!

John has attended both games. He sent the following e-mail to Alex's team after the last game:

Yesterday after the soccer game, Alex was so elated that A) she played and B) she had 2 touches on the ball and made 2 good passes. It was great to see her so excited and she was very proud of her performance.

We love sending out e-mails like this. During basketball season I was known to send out e-mails like this one to the Principal:

Why is Alex not participating in practice? Has anyone looked into this? Why can she not play in a C team game when the score is 29 - 5. My heart almost broke the other night seeing the hope and then disappointment on her face. Who is advocating for her?

I believe there are a few factors involved making this soccer season more successful than the basketball season.

First, it is the same coaches as last year. These dedicated young women understand Alex, and know her limitations. For example, Alex can not run more than 1/2 mile. She overheats quicker than the other girls, and her weight is a hindrance. The coaches have made adaptations for Alex, and she will run short sprints, while the rest of the team runs distances. As an added benefit, this has helped Alex with her sprinting skills, which she will need at the National Games.

The coaches also realize that Alex is sensitive to how others perceive her, and they actively intervene at the first indication of negativity. The coaches and girls are kind and caring to Alex. They look out for her.

Secondly, we meet with the Coaches, Principal, School Counselor and Director of Athletics before the season started. John prepared the following agenda:

1. Communication, Dad, XXX-XXXX, Mom, XXX-XXXX. I’d like to get everyone’s email and cell #s.

2. Practice schedule, for before school, after school, special times, weekends, dinners, bus leaving and returning.

3. Alex’s participation, in games and in practice. What is expected of her, can things be adapted so she doesn’t fall behind (shortening runs like in the past etc.)

4. Injuries – she is putting on quite a show with injuries, this is her way of saving face from her lack of participation in b-ball. It works well for her, as the trainer has been taping her and so she gets all kind of attention. We need a way to wean her from this, acknowledging there is a possibility of injury, but knowing that most likely it’s not.

5. What is the coaches’ philosophy of winning as the only goal versus balancing participation and teamwork sportsmanship etc.

6. I’d like to make sure that we have all the equipment needed, uniforms etc.

7. Encouragement for Alex in personal hygiene, exercise, stretching and effort, maybe reminders of her obligation to the special Olympics for track in terms of her making sure she’s running and participating in the drills and practice.

8. Any ideas or opportunities for integrating soccer with her schoolwork would be great; coaches and TEACHER can coordinate.

Everyone was on board with our suggestions/requests and it was a very positive meeting.

Finally, and I am at fault here, there were new variables I did not anticipate. Although the incoming freshmen did know Alex; she had been in the middle school with them, these young teenagers have are never played sports with Alex.

The girls, who are competitive, like many young athletes, were not properly prepared for Alex. There was no explanation about Alex; her limitations, and her desire to play as hard, and as much as the rest of the team. These 9th graders, who are still learning maturity, also learned this lesson during the basketball season. The freshmen girls have matured considerably, and are now more encouraging and inclusive.

So, I keep my fingers crossed. I love seeing Alex so happy and excited about soccer. Her injuries have mysteriously disappeared. She is more confident and working harder in school.

Wouldn’t I love to say "I told you so" to all those folk who were the recipients of my "look at the whole picture" e-mails, phone calls and dare I say - tirades. But I won't, grace under pressure has always served me well.

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