Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

A Tribute to Youth Soccer

From the time I was four years old until I was 14, I played in a recreational youth soccer league in my tiny home town of Stevensville, Montana. Stevensville Youth Soccer (SYS as I so fondly remember it) was an opportunity for me to get out and make friends after a slow day of school. Practice was simple, focusing more on fun than teaching specific skills in soccer, although I do remember running the same throw in drill every single year for maybe five years, so there were definitely teaching moments.

My fondest memories of it all were the brightly colored jerseys that my team and I got each year, with the naming of our team always including the aspect of our jersey color. Whether it was “Blue Lightning,” “Green Mean Kicking Machines” or even “Killer Smurfs,” the names were always fun for the players while promoting a low pressure environment. We would have matching colored socks that were not specified for the size of the kid, so you would have to fold them over once or twice to get them to stay below your knee.

I invite you to imagine a young towhead blond me playing in these games. My calves always looked so absurd with my thick, folded over socks covering my massive over-ankle shin guards. I’m sure my parents would have bought me shorts that were a little too big for me so I could “grow into them.” I distinctly remember photos of me having my shirt tucked in as well (likely similar sizing issues spurred by my parents) with my blue prescription sports goggles because I was as terribly blind then as I am now. I always had to have black cleats, and often they were the ones with the fold over tongue (if you know, you know) with laces so long that I had to lace them all the way around the bottom of the shoe and tie them at the top.

To put it simply, I had swag. Not that that mattered to me in the slightest when I was on the field. When I was young, anytime I got the opportunity to play the game, I was giving all the effort that I could. I did everything my coach told me to. I would run the entire field if I saw an opportunity to score, I played as a center back for a few years, I even played goalkeeper for an entire season (mainly because my brother had, and I did anything I could to be like him). Partially that was because my dad coached me for a few years, but I always had the feeling that I needed to give everything I had.

I have never had a better feeling than running my butt off for what was likely 60 minutes (which doesn’t feel long anymore) and being rewarded with snacks from the team parents. Orange slices, juice boxes, rice krispie treats, string cheese, fruit roll ups; you name it, I was always grateful. However, I wish I could have gone back and been more appreciative of some of the smaller things that I may have missed.

My games always happened around 6-7 p.m., which means that the sun would always set in the middle of my games. Not once did I even truly appreciate how cool it was that I always got to play soccer and watch a sunset at the same time. The cold that came in after the sun went down was always a negative to young me, but I would give anything for those crisp fall nights now. Maybe above all else, I miss the times that I got to play on the same team as my brother with my dad as our coach. There was always so much for me to appreciate that I feel I may have missed out on.

Maybe I’m looking back on my life with rose-tinted glasses, maybe I’m a little homesick, maybe it’s a combination of the two. But what I do know is that when I was able to play a game just to play a game, that was when my life was at its peak. Competitive sports served me well for the ages I played them, but I do think that there is something so special about the low intensity, no stakes games that I used to play back in SYS. Whether it be my love of sports, my fondness towards nature or my adoration of the fall season, I do think that my experience in youth soccer helped me to sculpt who I am today and I will always be grateful for it.

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