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(Just wrote a column a couple of days ago about my daughter and how things have changed from when she was a six year old fisherman to today, when she is an 18-year old college freshman. Got great response to that, click here to read it, if you haven't already. Also, here is a column from seven years ago, when she was an 11-year old soccer player. Enjoy.)
Sports And Life's Lessons
Kids can learn a lot of important lessons while they participate in youth sports. This past weekend, my youngest daughter learned that sometimes you get kicked in the shins.
A big part of our family’s weekly fall Saturday morning ritual is the trip up to the local soccer field to watch the youngsters — my daughter included — take part in a rousing soccer match. My daughter occasionally reminds me that soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and is too young to realize that when I was her age, soccer wasn’t even included in the conversation.
We had youth baseball, football and basketball, and that was about it. I had cousins who lived in more northern climates who claimed to participate in a sport known as “hockey,” but I cannot verify that such a sport actually existed.
We didn’t even know what soccer was.
So on Saturday mornings, as members of my generation watch our young kids play soccer, we’re watching them participate in an activity of which they have more knowledge than we do. And actually, that might be for the best.
If we were watching football, baseball or basketball, I’m sure that most of us would be offering tons of advice to our youngsters throughout the match. In my experience, this type of behavior does little to help the participants. The kids are much too busy to take a minute from competing in order to absorb our words of expertise, and often times in our case, the word “expertise” is undeserving of the root word “expert.” Our vocal distractions do little to help the kids.
With soccer, due to our limited personal experience with the sport, most of our encouragement consists of more simple expressions such as, “Kick it! Kick it! Run after the ball! Run faster!”
This type of advice is simple to express and simple to follow. It isn’t very distracting, and I believe it is often very helpful to the youngsters.
Many a time during a contest, another parent will look at me and ask, “Can they do that?”
To which my reply is usually something along the lines of, “I guess so. They just did.”
One of the few things we do know about soccer is that, except for in a few circumstances, the ball must be propelled by the athletes’ feet and is not to be touched by the athletes’ hands. All this kicking actually makes things more convenient. The ball spends most of its time on the ground, and feet also spend most of their time on the ground, so the players are able to move the ball around without having to bend down. I believe the players will appreciate this much more when they reach the age of my generation, and bending down all the time becomes much more difficult.
Unfortunately, the players’ shins also spend much of their time very close to the ground, and it is not uncommon to see an attempted kick of the ball to miss and land firmly and squarely in the middle of one of those shins. Occasionally there is sickening “thud” sound involved.
Such an event can cause much pain to the owner of said shin. If someone asked you to participate in an activity that was great fun, but that, during the activity, your shins would be occasionally bludgeoned in a brutal, painful manner, I believe there is a good chance that you would decide to not get involved.
But humans are strange, illogical animals, and we often enjoy doing things which cause us physical pain. There are literally hundreds of recreational pastimes that are quite fun and exciting but include the risk of getting your head bashed in.
A normal, logical creature would simply discontinue these pastimes, but for some reason, humans instead find a way to minimize the impact of the head-bashing. We wear helmets — and have created a billion dollar specialized helmet industry — so that we can play just as hard and lessen the severity of the bashing.
And so it is with soccer. Players can wear protective gear on their shins to lessen the pain of the brutal shin-kicking.
Unfortunately, my daughter was not wearing them Saturday.
Cheering a young person up after he or she has had his or her shin brutally bludgeoned is more difficult than you might think. The pain is too enormous. Ancient stories of line drives in the eye and volleyball spikes in the face just don’t do it. Basic, slapstick comedy routines have no impact. Silly songs crooned with your best Pee-Wee Herman voice are ignored. Speeches and lectures about toughness get an eye-roll at best and a scornful look at worst.
Few things exist to soften the pain.
I expect that before this Saturday one of my daughter’s guardians will be reaching into a wallet and pulling out enough cash to purchase some shin-guards.
I’m not sure exactly what kind of life lesson my daughter learned from her shin-kicking experience, but at least one of her parents is learning more and more about soccer every day.