Saturday, January 29, 2011

See Max's Girl Run

Okay, y'all are going to have to put up with some more soccer gushing, but this time will be a little different.

Y'all know the Impertinent One has been playing soccer since she was seven, right? Wanted to start her when she was four or five, but the Husbandly One was convinced she was too tiny and would get hurt. I kept pushing, and finally, he said we could try it out and see how she did.

Why did I want her to play soccer?

Well, see, our Labrador Retriever, Max, was such a ball dog. We'd had him since we were first married, and spent a lot of time throwing tennis balls, Frisbees, kick balls, and any other kind of ball we had around for him, and he'd fetch and bring it back, or knock it around and then knock it to us... he was very playful, and we sort of got into the habit of inventing games to play with him. Then one day, THO found a soccer ball and brought it home, and thus began Max's life as a Soccer Dog.

THO spent a lot of time running around, kicking the ball with Max, and Max would knock it back to him and it was pretty damned funny. And amazing.

Did I mention Max waited five years for us to have a kid? And when we finally did, the first thing he did the day we brought her home was drop a ball in her crib and wait patiently for her to throw it back?

The day she finally did was the happiest day in his life.

Okay, so skip forward to when she was finally upwardly mobile and could run. We still kept a variety of balls around for Max (and for Miss Impertinence, too!). And they played, running around the yard constantly.

The inevitable happened. Max taught the Impertinent Daughter how to play soccer. And he always played in a take-no-prisoners kind of way.

She learned well.

Okay, so, the Impertinent One went to her first soccer practice and took to it like a duck takes to water. She was the smallest kid on her team, and I had my moments of "Oh, maybe THO was right," but then she'd play just the way Max taught her and I'd stop worrying.

Then she had her first game, and THO, who had missed the practices, came to watch. There were several kids on the other team who were like... twice her size, and I could see THO was nervous when she went on the field to play. Then this kid, who was HUGE compared to her, loomed over her as she came running up the field with the ball, actually lifting up his arms like he was going to do a "Hulk, smash!!" kind of thing, and I could see THO was ready to race onto the field to save her...

She looked up at him, smirked, then plowed him to the ground with one shoulder and blitzed right past him like he didn't weigh a thing, passed to one of the other forwards, and bam! it was a goal.

I looked up at THO, trying not to be smug, and he was staring after her with this sort of befuddled, totally besotted look on his face, full of shock and admiration, and he suddenly shouted, "THAT'S MY GIRL!! YOU GO, IMPERTINENCE!!"

And that was that.

Well, somewhere along the way, probably when she was about ten or eleven, she started losing her confidence. Mostly after she started playing under the coach she'd had her first season, whom she really liked. He called her his Trooper, because she was always willing to play, even when she was hurt, and he could count on her to set up the ball for shots on goal. Then... he started not playing her as often. He'd bench her, or put her in and take her out after a few minutes. By the last season she played with him, it was starting to tell on her. She started playing in a very tentative sort of way, and flinching when the ball came at her, or when boys looked like they were going to bump her. The coach moved her to midfield, and by her last season, had moved her to defense. She stayed at midfield and defense for the next two levels she played at, and again when she played for the junior high, though she slowly started getting her confidence back. By the time she was playing for the junior high, she was playing aggressively again.

When she started at the high school, after making the team, the coach told her she would play her at midfield, but mostly, she wanted Impertinence to play forward.

"I can't play forward!" she wailed to me. "I'm not fast enough!! I can't run like that!"

"Yes, you can," I said, because I know her, right?

"No! I'm too chunky, look at my legs, they're too short!!"

"You do a lot better than you think you do," I said firmly. "And it's not just speed, honey. It's knowing where to be and when to be there, and you are very good at that. And you're fast enough when you want to be," I added, thinking, you're pretty damn fast when your brother has something you don't want him to have, and you want it back!

Admittedly, the first game she played as a forward, she looked totally lost, but... she nearly got a goal. By the time they played in the tournament in Hays, she'd figured things out, and was starting to enjoy it.

Last night, she came full circle.

I almost missed her first shot at goal. I was grumbling at my camera, trying to adjust the settings because it wasn't cooperating with me, and the Tall Blonde grabbed my arm and practically physically turned my head for me and I was just in time to see her, right there, zipping between Bastrop players like they weren't even there, and then she was there, the keeper wasn't and BAM that ball was flying into the goal. The keeper made a desperate last second lunge and managed to hit the ball with the tips of her fingers just enough to change the trajectory and the ball hit the pole and flew out.

I couldn't even make a sound!, I just sat there with my hands plastered over my face.

I could just swear that when she went zipping down the field, slipping between those other girls... there was a big goofy black dog running right next to her.

It was like I was seeing her in that first game, that same fierce joy, the determination, the "Ha-ha-ha, this is my game, you're playing on my field, and I'm gonna get that ball!!" that had been missing since she was eleven... and it was so wonderful!!

She's found her speed again, too.

And that's why I spent most of the game with my hands either clutched under my chin or plastered over my face, why I could barely squeak at times, because seeing her like that again was so extremely wonderful, it was almost unbearable.

I think she's going to be just fine now. I really do.

Max and His Girl

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