We all piled into the minivan a bit later than normal. This time around we got a bit of a reprieve. Instead of starting before the sun came up, this soccer tournament Sunday would start closer to high noon. We just had to get there.
An hour or so later, we pulled up to the high school gym where for the next 4 hours our two teams of third and fourth grade boys would play between 72 and 90 minutes of indoor soccer. It was fun and intense.
As a coach to these boys, I’ve really come to enjoy watching and being a part of their development as players, and more importantly, as people. It is not always an easy job, but it is rewarding. Such a reward came at the Winter Blast Indoor Soccer Tournament.
As is the case with any good sports story, we had to overcome challenges that tested each player and the team. We had to play each other in the semifinals and then in the final we faced the team that beat both of our teams in the round robin group stage. The final was much closer than either of the earlier games. Emotions ran high on both sides. There was pushing, shoving, and injuries. Our team took the lead. Up one goal, the time seemed to slow down. The wear and tear on their young legs was catching up to them. This tiredness and the subsequent communication breakdown it caused led to the other team scoring an equalizer.
Not much time remained in regulation. I was starting to determine the best strategy to employ in overtime. Despite the pressure of playing in a final and all of the other challenges, our team persevered and scored the go-ahead goal.
As the clock ticked down…10…9….8…7…excitement built on our sideline. Then, exultation. We were the champions. The excitement and joy on the faces of the boys is what I will remember the most. That, and all of the work they put in to creating that moment.