When we were in Atlanta, my son Hunter played in a soccer league that was very competitive. Honestly, Hunter was way out of his league as far as skills, and should never have been a part of that league. He had played with some of the kids in a county rec league and we knew the coach, so that’s how he got on the team.
At the time, we thought it would be good for him to play with kids who were better than him, because it would force him to up his game and be more of an aggressive player. In hindsight, he would’ve been better off at the less competitive county recreation level.
Being on that team ruined the sport for him. The kids on the team were very harsh. If anyone made a mistake, his own team members would down him. The parents weren’t much better. Everybody wanted to win, and there wasn’t any room to make mistakes or to learn. The coach himself was great, but because a lot of these kids were very talented, their parents expected to win and didn’t like to see mistakes.
Hunter definitely did not belong there. It wasn’t the kind of environment where he could learn. He’s not a very aggressive or competitive kid by nature. He’s very mellow; he’s there for the Gatorade and the fellowship. He just wants to hang out with his friends. The only reason he didn’t insist on quitting was because there was a promised pizza party at the end of the season. He played one season and declared that he hated soccer.
When we moved to Hatteras, soccer was the only sport the county recreation league offered, because it offered the best chance of social distancing since it’s played outside. We wanted Hunter to consider it, and at first he was adamantly opposed to ever playing soccer again. We tried to explain to him that what he hated was the competitive nature of his team and the pressure packed atmosphere, but he conflated that with the sport.
We explained that soccer would be his best bet for meeting some friends. He finally relented on his promise to never play soccer again, and agreed to join the team.
Lo and behold, he likes soccer again! There are 3 teams in his age group and they all play each other. My high school friends’ kids are on the teams and we all know each other, so the vibe is completely different than Atlanta. We cheer for our own kids’ teams, but we cheer for the other kids too because we know them. The parents, especially the dads, like to cheer and coach from the sidelines, but it’s always positive. Parents shout encouragement for kids who make mistakes. It’s not all about winning; the kids have a chance to mess up and learn something. No one is acting like it’s the World Cup.
This is one more reason I’m thankful to live in a small, tight knit community!