My son had his last soccer game of the year last night, which ended in a tie: 1-1. I prefer these tougher games - they're more gripping to watch, and way more fun than when one team completely creams the other, scoring six goals in the first fifteen minutes or something like that.
He's had games twice a week for the last couple of months, though some were cancelled due to rainy conditions, and we lost a few game days to holidays and the like... they probably played a total of ten or eleven games. I'll note here that he also plays a pick-up style game on our street almost daily with the kids in the 'hood. The kids loves soccer.
A few weeks ago, Oliver had a friend stay to sleep over on a Friday night, and I called lights out at 11 PM, reminding him that he had a game the following afternoon. I added, "You don't need to wake up at the crack of dawn to play video games, either..." which is of course exactly what they did. The boys were deep into Little Big Planet on the Playstation before 6:00 AM, nibbled on stuff around the house, and then we all had a big brunch of crepes with bacon and fruit mid-morning. His friend went home around one o'clock, and I could see Oliver's eyes sagging.
"We've got a game today... I know you're tired, but you still have to go."
It drizzled all day, in that chilly way that makes a person want to head straight back under the covers. But, as there was no fear of lightening, the game wasn't cancelled - we had to suit up and go. And as we huddled under umbrellas (how many times have I done this?) shivering and shifting from foot to foot, Oliver was like a corpse on the field. Half-hearted effort does not describe...
"Oliver, get the ball!! Run!!"
He'd s-l-o-w-l-y jog towards the scrimmage, decide he was too late in getting there, and then slow down again, walking behind the boys who had the ball. He'd kick limply if the ball came his way. Barely.
Oliver pulled a leg muscle, and then really started to drag his butt on the field. To make matters worse, there were no substitute players that day, so each kid had to play the whole match without much of a rest.
I promised him a warm bath and something good to eat when it was over. He was cold, wet, and miserable. Add sore, tired, and hungry to that mix... he nearly cried on the way home.
And I did draw him a lovely bath and set him in it, while I dried myself and his sister off. We were chilled to the bone too. And of course, the rain had begun to subside as soon as we walked in the door. (Balls!) While I fixed him something to eat, the doorbell rang, and it was his sleep-over friend, calling on him to come and play outside. I said Oliver was having a little break, but would find him later, or maybe tomorrow...
Oliver called to me, saying he wanted out of the bath, and could he please go and play outside with his friend... I'm feeling much better now.
Scraaaaaaaatch... Stop the record.
Me: *squinting* Wait a minute. Are you telling me that you're cured of your fatigue, just like that? Weren't you the one almost bawling twenty minutes ago about being sooooo tired and sooooo hungry that you were sure you were going to die? And your leg is fine, now that your friend is here, is that it? *annoyed*
He: Well, I'm not tired anymore.
Me: *louder* Are you kidding me right now?
Me: Look, Oliver... do you think I like standing out in the freezing rain for an hour, getting soaked? How about your sister and your dad? We're happy to cheer you on, but you've got to work! And you're part of a team that needs you. *scowls* So! You have to show up, even when you don't feel like it. I don't always feel like it either, you know. I have other things to do than to stand in the rain, watching a kid who's hardly even playing...
He: I haven't missed a single game!
Me: *widens eyes* You're not supposed to miss games!
He: Well, other kids have missed games...
Why do they always mention other kids?
Me: I don't care about them, I care about you! YOU have to put in an effort, Oliver, even when you sometimes don't feel like it. That's just the way it is. And today you didn't put in much of an effort, but now you're ready to go running at top speed through the streets with your friend, when ONE HOUR AGO, you could barely be bothered to move a step on the field?! Well... that is ass. You can't have it both ways. Not fair.
I know, I know... the child is eight years old. He was tired, and I get it. But still... this is just like being too tired to do homework, after you've played outdoors for three hours. Kid, you can suck it. And I told him as much.
He: *flatly* Sorry.
Me: *blinks, thinking* Okay... you can go play with your friend. But, listen! When you have a game to play, or when you have work to do, you need to put your best foot forward. Every time. It's important.
He: Because you want me to win.
Me: No! Not because... well, I mean... don't you want to win? It's not about winning, you know that. But you have to try your best. I don't care if the other team wins, and I don't care if they win by ten goals, that's not the point. I want to see some hustle on your part. You know how to play this game, so go and play it. Get the ball! RUN, for godsake... if you're not even going to try, then why should we all stand out in the rain on a Saturday afternoon to watch you do a bunch of nothing, just because you're tired? *shrugs* I'm tired too, you know! I'd rather stay home, but I showed up. You have to show up and do your part as well.
Me: *looks in his eyes* I mean it!
He: *looks back* Okay.
Me: Okay. *lays out palm for him to slap it*
And that was it. He's played much better after our little talk. For the last few games, from the sidelines we cheered him on as we always do. And when he sagged from a bit of heat and fatigue, I'd pass him the water bottle and mouth the word, hustle at him, and he'd get his head back in the game, and pick up some speed. It's all about how you play the game.
We buy the snazzy cleats, get the uniform and the accoutrement together. We get juice and popsicles and snacks packed up and ready. We clap, we cheer, we shiver under umbrellas, we wilt in the heat... all right along side them. This is what we do as soccer moms. *shudders at the term*
I have no idea how many games we won or lost this year, and I never count. I really don't care about that part - I'm not competitive like that. But I figure the very least they can do is show some hustle, yo. I just want to see the effort.
You know what I mean?