What I learned from old man soccer

I had to laugh when I read that Robert Hruzek wanted us to talk about what we had learned from sports. I mean, does he really want me to dredge up the time I tried out for the 6th grade softball team…and got cut immediately? The broken tooth I have from being hit by a bat on the playground in fourth grade? Holding the record for the highest 9-hole round of golf on the high school team (100 strokes. 2 years on the team)? Being on the football field all four years in high school (marking band, tuba)? Taking pictures of a track meet to find out if I could shoot pictures for the local newspaper (couldn’t)?

Somehow, I’m not sure what I learned from sports…other than to quit trying.

But then we had a son. And our son played soccer.  For years. Which meant that I watched a lot of soccer. And learned something about the game as I tried to help him practice.

Finally, when a couple other dads were putting together a team to play indoor soccer in the over-30s, men’s C league, I decided that I would come off the sports bench one last time.

It was an interesting experience. It would have been more interesting if it had been an over-40s league. There were some guys just barely over 30, and they had actually played soccer. In college. Fortunately, some of them were on our team.

In the couple seasons I played, I got my first bloody nose. I got my first dislocated jaw. I got my first goal. I had a t-shirt with a number on it. I never threw up. I got really really tired.

And I learned that sometimes even incompetent players are at competent as the players on the other team.

I usually played defense. My strategy was to stay between the ball and the goal. Because I assumed the person with the ball knew what he was doing, I never tried to kick the ball, I just tried to stay between the ball and the goal. After all, if I tried for the ball and missed, the other guy would be past me and could score.

My strategy usually worked, but it was not very courageous.

One night I decided, for reasons I do not know, to go for the ball. The other guy and I arrived at exactly the same time and rather than letting him take it, I went for the ball.

And I won it.

In fact, I dribbled downfield and passed across to the far side and…the other guy missed the goal.

But still, I tried and won the ball.

I have carried the feeling of that moment into very many other situations. Since that moment, I have had other moments of almost holding back and then I attacked the ball. Sometimes I win it. Sometimes I don’t. But I am less timid that I was before that night (on average). And it’s kind of fun.

I quit after two seasons. They folded the B and C leagues together and the play was more serious than I could handle. And I was tired of playing at 11:30 on Friday nights.

However, after my first four and a half decades of athletic failure, I finally learned something that changed my life.

Regardless of who wins, sometimes you just have to play.


5 responses to “What I learned from old man soccer

  1. And here’s another one! Situations where we need to attack the ball…

    More food for thought, cheers Jon!

  2. yes, thanks for that one! Even blogging for me is learning to attack the ball.

  3. Hey Jon! You managed far more than I ever did in MY soccer career! I only lasted a couple of games before I figured out I HATED RUNNING!

    After that, I decided to limit my athletic experience to sports where I didn’t have so far to move: table tennis!

    But I like your lesson learned, and it’s something we can all take away in life. Thanks for sharing it with us this month!


  4. i understand the running part. All too well.

    Thanks, Robert.

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