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The Tryout

This afternoon at 5:00 was Simon’s informal soccer tryout for joining the 8- and 9-year-olds at Mockingbird Valley indoor soccer complex.  Besides being older, these kids play on a full field, use a larger ball, and play six to the field in semi-formal positions. The new youth director wanted to see Simon in action before placing him in the Under-10s this winter so he could judge whether Simon had the speed, skill, size, and maturity to play with boys significantly older than him in a sport that involves some contact.

The tryout very nearly didn’t happen because at 3:50 Simon collapsed when he learned that he wouldn’t be going to Seneca Park to play soccer with Matt. Explaining that he was going somewhere else to play soccer did not mollify him one bit. Whether it was the change in plans or the additional soccer-less hour in his life that was responsible for this collapse I’m unsure.

Things improved dramatically once he ate an energy bar and turned around completely once he found himself in a room with goals, other kids, and soccer balls. By 5:00, all was right in Simon’s world and he looked happier than I’d seen him all day.

So how’d he do? Well, he did fine in the drills, having footwork equal to all but maybe one or two of the boys in the group. His speed was similarly fine, and he seemed to be OK socializing with the older boys. He didn’t stand out, but he held his own. Then it was scrimmage time, and Simon found a entirely new gear. He asked to play midfield, took possession of the ball from the opposing team more than once, dribbled up the field through defenders several times, ran like lightening, and set up two crosses (passes in front of the goal), one of which resulted in a goal for his side.

Fists were pumped in the air in triumph. High fives were exchanged with (one-day only) teammates, and the boy was in his glory. The final verdict from the coach? “There is no reason at all he should not be playing with this group.” From the new youth director: “Yeah, he obviously needs to be with this group. Send me an email and I’ll sign him up so the system doesn’t reject him when you input his birth-date.” And from the birthday party coach who set this whole thing in motion: “If he were on my team, he’d be on the field for almost the entire game. The thing I like most about him is his passion. You don’t see that drive to constantly play very often, and it’s 70% of being a great player.”

The only questions remaining are (1) whether any teams in the current session have empty slots on their rosters and, (2) if so, can we pay a pro-rated rate to have Simon join for the last three weeks of the season? Cause honestly, I’d drive him there tomorrow for a game if I could. It will save my sanity and my living room!


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