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Upping the Ante

LSA Simon corner kick resizeAfter a busy spring of Community Relations Council activity, PTA events, legal maneuvering with my neighbor, a property value assessment appeal, and soccer, I am back behind the keyboard with time to think and write about things. Of the many possibilities, I think I’ll begin with soccer because it’s a big part of our life and it’s about to become even bigger. Or at least more expensive!

For the past three seasons, Simon has played with Louisville Soccer Alliance (LSA). They are a non-select club that offers a spot to all who make a commitment to play and practice. They respect that many children are multi-sport athletes who have to occasionally miss a game, and the cost—at $700 per year including a uniform and two tournaments—is the best bargain in soccer for those who want to play in the local competitive league. They are a family-friendly club that has been very good to us, but that we are nevertheless about to leave.

As of tomorrow, Simon will be joining the Kentucky Fire Juniors, a select team, and the culture we are a part of will dramatically change. He had to try out for this team, players are assigned to ranked teams according to their tryout performance, and I  have a mountain of paperwork to complete before Simon gets measured for his uniform tomorrow. Practices will be three times a week, there will be an expectation that practices and games are missed only rarely and under extraordinary circumstances, and the cost—at twice the LSA rate not including three separate uniforms—is sky high.

I am slightly concerned that Matt and I do not belong at this club and that we aren’t going to have much in common with the parents there. However, I am equally certain that this is where Simon belongs. He has had a foot on a ball for four years now and is an intense competitor who will thrive in a select team atmosphere. He’s also got some talent, being particularly good at reading the field, finding space, and making great passes. He’s only 8, but he’s a natural mid-fielder.

And did I mention that he loves it? I just sorted through his papers from this past year, and nearly every personal narrative concerned soccer at some level. He plays it whenever he can, and when he’s not playing it he’s writing about it, talking about it, watching it, and even dreaming about it.

Simon actually practiced with the Fire twice this winter after being scouted in a Fire-affiliated rec league. The practice was fast, intense, and included zero time for socializing. From a non-athlete’s perspective, it looked stressful. Simon, being an actual athlete, loved every minute of it, walked off the field drenched in sweat, and breathlessly declared “I’m totally coming here in the fall.”

His mind was made up: One last season with his friends, many of whom were older and would be in a different division next year. One last season with his head coach, who moved to St. Louis last Monday. And then he’d move on to greener, and winning-er, pastures. There was just the small matter of a tryout, which he aced, securing a spot on the U-10 team 2. (Simon is technically a U-9 for boys who are age 8 as of August 1, but since he’s been playing up for a year and a half now, he tried out for the team for boys who are 9 as of August 1.)

The Kentucky Fire Juniors coaching staff has been nothing but friendly and helpful to me and Matt. So why am I wary? I’ll tell you why: Because during tryouts, when the boys were out scrimmaging and doing cone drills in their numbered shirts, the Fire had a guest speaker address the parents. And what did he talk to us about? Travel and college scholarships. That’s right, while 9-year-olds were on the field being evaluated by coaches, a veteran Kentucky Fire Junior parent was telling us all about the college scouting process and how he has a Subaru with 280K miles on it from all the travel.

“Any questions?” he asked the mostly eager and attentive parents? “Yeah,” I thought to myself, “Who is your mechanic?” Because while I think it’s ridiculous to be discussing college scholarships with the parents of rising fourth-graders, I’m totally invested in finding a mechanic who can get me 180K additional miles on my ’97 Camry.

Ready, wary, skeptical, or not, I’ll still be at tomorrow’s Fire open house and uniform fitting. And I’ll be keeping my snarky opinions (mostly) to myself. Because while I might think that many of these parents are off their rockers, high level soccer is my son’s dream. Plus, all this talk of college has a definite upside for us, because most of the time Simon insists he’s skipping college to go straight to the pros. It might be crazy, but it’s less crazy than his own plan, so I’ll take it!

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