Monday, September 19, 2011

Jiro is My Hero

We had an action-packed weekend like only September can deliver, but I have to start my recapping with Saturday's soccer game. It was the boys' second game and Jiro was super excited about playing goalie. He had apparently taken three balls to the face without crying at Thursday's practice and been unofficially named "toughest kid on the team." (This came as no surprise to me!)

Because their team has fourteen players and only six play at a time, the coach has to do a lot of subbing. At Saturday's game, Jiro was on the B team, which meant he played the second half of each half. When he got in the goal, the score was 0-0. The A team had several shots on goal, but since the other team had a giant (who so obviously was not a 3rd or 4th grader) in the goal, it had been impossible to score.

Immediately Jiro had to protect the goal. One shot thankfully bounced off the post and another was easily scooped up by him. Shortly after there was a corner kick which resulted in a handball by Jiro's teammate IN THE BOX. Now most of the parents watching from the side did not grasp what this meant, but I did.

Yep, direct kick.

It took a minute for the ref to explain everything to everyone, and it was the longest minute of my life. There are no real lines on the field, other than the outside lines, so the ref just guessed where the goal line would be. I'd say his guess was pretty lame since the kid who would have a direct kick on Jiro was only about 5 feet away.

My main hope was that the kid would just flub the kick and accidentally kick it out of bounds or on the pole. I couldn't even dare to dream that Jiro would make a dramatic save. He's only been playing soccer for about a month and hasn't had any in-depth training as goalie.

So, when the kid scored the goal, it was ok. I don't think anyone of us expected Jiro to be able to make the save. If you've ever seen a World Cup shoot out, you know that the goalie basically has to guess a side and dive, hoping s/he guessed right. We all cheered for Jiro and told him he did good, and he made a few other saves and came off at half time with his ego intact.

Meanwhile, Satchel was playing defense and doing a fine job of it. He got the ball several times and made some great kicks. He was also feeling good at half time.

By the time the B team went in for the last "quarter" of the game, we were down 2-1. (The coach's son scored a BEAUTIFUL goal at the beginning of the second half, and then the other team basically dribbled one in during a clusterf*ck in front of our goal.) Now Satchel and Jiro were both on the offensive line and I had my doubts as to whether they'd be able to do any scoring. Our big kickers are on the A team and our star from the week before was home with a fever.

But Satchel and Jiro both surprised me. They played harder than I thought they could, and had several runs to the goal. I, of course, was out of my seat and running down the sidelines along with them screaming my head off! There was a lot of back and forth between the teams and a LOT of running. Jiro was so amazingly aggressive and managed to steal the ball several times. At one point he had the ball and three players from the other team stood back about five feet and allowed him to set up for a kick because they were all too scared to attack him!

I saw Satchel holding his chest and worried that he was getting winded, but he hung in there and had some great runs.

Finally, Jiro took a really hard spill after getting tripped. He stayed down, and eventually the ref sent him off of the field. He came off doubled over, holding his stomach, in tears. Since no one on the team had ever seen this tough guy cry, they were all worried. As I waited for him to come off the field (really, I can't believe I didn't run out and carry him off!) I looked over and noticed that Satchel was in tears too. I informed the coach, who called him off too, and then waited.

They both came over and collapsed at my feet in a pile of tears. I think they were both basically exhausted. In the most anti-climactic moment of the day, the whistle blew about 30 seconds after they came off. Suddenly it was time to shake hands, but only Satchel had regained his composure. The coach put Jiro on his shoulders as the team chanted "Jiro! Jiro! Jiro!" and they went to shake hands.

What a roller coaster!

I have gone into the games just hoping for a win, but both times have gotten so much more. It's wonderful to see them playing as a team, learning more and more each week, and really and truly giving 100%.

When they win, and I'm sure they will, it will mean so much more to them because they've really had to work for it.

Once they got some Gatorade and some chips, they went over to the playground with two of their best buddies and played for about an hour. They were all as happy as could be.

Satchel found this enormous caterpillar in one of the trees. I'm thinking of the boys' team as the caterpillar. I am so enjoying watching them transform. When they start to fly, I'll be right there with them, cheering them on.

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