Today’s first session of soccer camp for Delton went about as well as could be expected. Surprisingly, he was very enthusiastic about picking up some cleats and shin guards at the store with Aleisha. He was also very eager to get there.
And then, as soon as I put the car in park, he said, “I don’t want to play soccer.” I ignored the comment and walked around to Julia’s side first. There, parked next to me, is Jeremy, an acquaintance of mine from my friend’s poker games. Delton hears me say, “Hi, Jeremy,” and hops out of the car, expecting either his uncle or another friend of mine from Pine Grove whom he just met yesterday. Either way, he’s thrown out of his funk and back into being excited for soccer.
We arrived early to get signed up, which was as simple as handing over a check and an emergency contact number. A volunteer pointed us to the U6 (under-6 for all you soccer newbs) group. Then, we waited. And waited. Six o’clock came and went, each minute giving Delton more time to either bonk his sister on the head with her own ball or, worse, question why he was there in the first place.
Finally, a yell0w-shirted (Millersville Marauder, perhaps) fellow, gathers the dozen or so 5-year olds and starts going over their names. At this point, I withdraw to a nearby pavilion, figuring Delton is less likely to bolt if he can’t see me. After going through their first running drill exactly twice, however, he manages to wander off in my direction.
“I don’t like this. I don’t want to do this,” he says. I tell him that he can either participate or sit on the sidelines, but he is not leaving. After some pointless arguing, he decides that he will, in fact, leave, and I let him walk away hoping he’ll get bored and come back.
After five minutes or so, he has made his way about 100 yards in the wrong direction, and I figure I will have to chase him back. Julia, God bless her, is patiently waiting for me to take her to the playground. As I get closer to Delton, he starts walking toward the main road following the path that circles the park. Next thing I know, I am running to catch up with him. (Sure, now he runs.)
Making him hold my hand for the long walk back to his group, I tell him he has two choices: we can leave now, get a refund, return all his equipment and forget about soccer OR he can go back to join his group. He opts for sulking back to the sidelines, and I am able to re-join his sister, who found her own damn way to the playground by this point.
Within a few minutes, Delton is enjoying snack with the rest of his cohort as if nothing has happened. How bad can camp be when you spend a quarter of the time downing juice and noshing granola bars? The next ten minutes back on the field go fine. From my now very distant vantage point high atop the jungle gym, it appears they are playing duck-duck goose followed by a passing drill.
Soon enough, Delton is first in line for the kids’ first chance to shoot on goal. I still can’t hear what’s going on, but the coach appears to be explaining how to dribble the ball up to a certain point before taking a shot. Delton instead kicks the ball toward the coach, then picks up the ball and throws it toward the net. He seems embarrassed that he messed up, and spends the remainder of the session on the sidelines, missing the first “game.”
Quite the roller coaster ride—one that I feel I’ve ridden before. It would seem the deck is stacked against Delton becoming the next <insert name of your favorite sports hero here. Lord knows I don’t have one>, but I don’t want him to realize that. And, if the day comes that he does, I hope he chooses to shrug his shoulders and carry on enjoying a sport as I did—not for the competition, but for the camaraderie. Or, better yet, find in himself the strength to defy expectations.
For now, however, I’m OK with baby steps. My hope for this week’s lessons: it’s OK to fail, but not to give up. And, as our friend’s daughter learned, standing on the sidelines is boring.