I gave up on soccer about 25 years ago. It was optional where I grew up. Things have changed. Now youth soccer leagues are as unavoidable as high fructose corn syrup, and I’m not sure which is more frightening.
Yesterday I took a shot at being a soccer dad for my six-year-old at the local park. I told myself, “Be cool. Your kid doesn’t have to be the star. So what if he doesn’t know where the ball is, or what to do when it comes to him? He’ll resent you for life if you hound him.”
About ten minutes later, I couldn’t take it anymore. I toed the sideline. “Buddy! Focus! Where’s the ball? Where should you be?”
When a substitute entered for him, we went off with the other players to practice. My son got down to business and kicked a few balls hard before he got distracted. He started doing physical comedy for his friends, pretending to trip on the ball, sprawling flat on the ground.
I might have stopped it, if it hadn’t been so obvious that I was irrelevant. Stella, a first-grade teammate, was his audience. She smiled, chased, cackled. A prayer formed in my heart, unfiltered, for my son: wherever your unstoppable passion takes you, may I keep love’s silence, and may you find Stella, after Stella, after Stella.