Max plays travel soccer, but he also plays on a recreational team in the winter that he's played with for the past three years. This is a great group of kids who really love the sport, some of whom are more proficient soccer players, and some of whom haven't been playing as long. But on this team it doesn't matter - they are all teammates and they enjoy playing the game together.
Indoor soccer is a fast paced, fun game that really relies on foot skills. It's a fun game to play and a fun game to watch. In this winter league you run across all kinds of teams. Some are pre-travel teams and destroy their opponents, and some teams are put together by the league. There are also a whole variety of teams in between. Our team happens to be on of the teams organized by the league. Our kids play soccer in various leagues all over Northern Virginia. These kids met one another on the field three years ago and haven't looked back since. Outside of winter soccer, they don't really see each other. A few kids plan in leagues together, but not the team as a whole.
Last week we faced a team that plays together indoors and outdoors. We have played them before this winter, and they were really rough. They were so rough that the referee had to warn the kids to stop pushing, tripping, and slide tackling. He even threatened them with a card at one time, and actually pulled a yellow card on the coach. He was a great ref and kept the game safe and moving along. Tom (he's the coach of this indoor team) wrote a note to the league complimenting the referee for handling this terrible game so well.
Going in we knew they'd be rough. I'm sure the kids remembered playing them as it was only a few weeks earlier that we met on the field. Tom coached his usual way - told them to ignore the roughness and play good soccer, and for the most part the kids did. Then, mid-way through the game Max got kicked in the thigh by a player that had been going head to head with him most of the game. It was an accident, but it set up a play later on that taught Max this lesson. He was out of the game briefly but went back in and scored a goal or two. Then he scored a few more and the other kids started getting rough. A few more goals scored by our team and even more roughness from them. They were pushing, body checking, and slide tackling, and while the referee was doing what he could to keep the game under control, he wasn't aware of all of it (Refs, unlike Moms, don't have eyes in the back of their heads). The kids on the other team weren't being coached to play better soccer but some wild form of cage fighting, and one of the parents on the team was even telling their kids to throw elbows. Tom took the time at the half to tell the kids NOT to retaliate. And for the most part they didn't. But clearly the other team was frustrated. Their "star" player was being shut down by not just Max, but several of our players, and had yet to score a goal in the second half. All of the kids were getting tired, and so this other player hit Max with the one move that he wasn't expecting - he called him a name. This player did the only thing he could think of that might knock his opponent out - he called him a "freak."
Max, who is a very nice kid, was completely taken off guard by this. It really threw him for a loop, and he took a bit to recover from it. He's never really encountered a really mean kid before, and here he runs into one on the soccer field. So now he understands that sometimes kids are just mean. And mean kids, well, sometimes they do bad things for their own gain. He also learned that he best way to deal with this is to beat kids like that on the field. Scoring goals is the one thing that a kid like that just can't handle, so next time he runs into a mean kid on the field, hopefully he'll remember this lesson.