What? What did we find?
Our lesson. We found the elusive life lesson in a crummy situation this past weekend. Through the course of my life, which has been very heavily involved with sport, I have learned that there are many life lessons to gain from our involvement in them. Sure, I learned and trained to become a skilled swimmer. But wow, that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I got out of all those years on all those teams. The lessons I learned along the way that had nothing to do with the water, are too many to count.
I have been telling my kids this as well. I've been sharing stories with them and assuring them, that as they move on through their life in soccer, or skiing, or running or LAX or golf or whatever they choose to do, the Lessons are out there. Just wait. They're coming.
This past weekend, it was time to dig deep inside and find the golden nugget and the hidden lesson. It was time to find a silver lining after being handed a nasty card. I thought it might be hard to find. But really, it was right in front of us and heartache turned into heartwarming moments we'll never forget.
Summarizing the situation-- it's all about Soccer right now in the Bancroft home. Starting the first week of August when I drove them all an hour each way to a day long soccer camp for a week, killed time/ worked in a coffee shop/ and trained for the 6 hrs they played, through next Sunday, every weekend and every single day of the week, at least one of my kids had practice or a game. Three boys + 3 teams = busy with nothing but soccer outside of work! And you know what? We love it. We really love to watch our kids play any sport they are into.
Tommy's team has been together for a long time. I'm not exactly sure, but 4 or 5 years for most of them. They've grown up together. I have been friends with three of the Moms since before the kids were born and one of those is his 2nd cousin. It's a close knit group.
Their team is the most fun to watch. I'm not sure what it is about it, but it's just great soccer. The kids don't always win, but they all always play their hearts out. They have improved so much over the years, it's a blast to watch the changes and development that has happened. Friendships have formed between parents, families and the kids.
The season ends with playoffs and then if they do well enough, onto States. Our work was cut out for us. We played Div 1 this year and it was hard. Our team is U13 but a bunch of the kids, including my son, are younger and could be on a U12 team. Tommy is 11. Some of his teammates are 13.
This past Saturday was game 1 of a 4 game playoff period. One game Sat & one Sunday with the same rotation next week. We had to win at least one of these games in order to have a chance to get to States.
The team we played against Sat was seeded way ahead of us. No worries, our team is tough. The night before, Tommy was nervous and excited. In his own words. My son is a tough kid and he plays with heart. Tommy has gone at life with 110% since the day he was born. He's ON unless he's in bed. ( yikes! As Mom this can be a bit trying at times!! :) ) The team is everything to him. He has left practices both in tears and with great anxiety and worry thinking he wasn't good enough as well as fired up and excited about how things were going. He cares. He always tries his hardest when he's out there on the field. And, usually, he does pretty well.
Saturday's game was Very exciting to start! Our kids were dominating the play. As an example of Tommy's effort, at one point he got the ball and ran full on down the field. ( He plays defense.) He's in pretty good shape. He can run and run and run without getting too fatigued. Clocks a 6:10 mile at the school test. But, after this little breakaway, Tommy was gasping for air so drastically that his coach was yelling, "breath... breath..." as he tried to recover while still playing. Just an example-- he gives 110% of himself-- every time.
The half ended at 0-0. Our team was fired up. Big hope for a win.
Then, only a few minutes into the 2nd half, the other team was firing at our goal. The boys were in the goal box trying to defend. A Hard shot was taken at "close" range to Tommy. His hands went up. Bam. Wrong move but done instinctively to protect his face. Reflex. He's 11! He bent over and put his hands on his head in an "oh no" move and then ran off the field before I knew what happened. Where's he going?
The lady ref had made her choice. She had blown her whistle, reached in her pocked & more or less ended his season.
For a handball. At age 11.
Now, Tommy was on the bench and my heart broke. How could this happen?
The other team got a penalty kick ( as they should have ) and scored.
Tommy got off the bench, ran over to his coach and said, "I'm sorry."
He sat back down and I ached. I could see him, crushed. Crying into his hands. One of the coaches talked to him. A bit later, Mark walked over to find out what happened ( confirmed it was due to the handball).
What did it mean? It meant the rest of the game, our team played one player short. Tommy was out for the game. And, out for the next day as well. Seriously? A handball! There was no reach to push the ball out of the net, there was no grab, just a hand to his face as the ball came at it. As Mom, I'm kind of glad I'm not staring at a kid with 2 black eyes, or a broken nose, or knocked out teeth. :)
Hard work all season to have the most important games taken away.
Rules are rules. But the Ref had the choice of interpreting it one way or the other and also had the choice as to whether or not give the Red card or not. I didn't see any of the 2nd half. The kids running around trying to save our game were blurry. All I could see was my poor kid sitting on the bench aching with sadness and guilt and confusion. He meant no harm to others. He didn't mouth off. He is always a good sport. He never does anything to harm or hurt his teammates. And now this. His act was playing a huge huge role in what turned into a 4-0 loss.
What happened over the next 24 hours was something I think we'll always remember. The reaction and support from almost everyone there that day, was more than we ever imagined.
The coach on the opposing team spoke to Tommy. He told him what a great job he did while he was on the field and that the call was wrong. That coach reached out to the people in charge and said, "it was wrong. Let him play tomorrow." Our coaches filed appeals. Calls were made and emails were sent. Parents reached out to Mark and I and we were told how sorry they were and how much they wanted to see Tommy play on Sunday. Other team parents even looked at us with tears in their eyes in sympathy for our son.
We held out hope. We heard this Ref had actually been banned from working in towns just 5 miles from where this game had been played. They would surely listen to all these people and reverse something or at least let him play on Sunday. The call was finally made to us on Saturday night. He was not going to be allowed back in to play.
We took a deep breath. I made cookies. Tears flowed. He didn't eat the cookie. A good sign a little boy wasn't feeling so hot. He skipped the cookie and laid face down on the couch--not talking. The next day, he got up with red eyes and a blotchy face.
I went for a run. I hadn't eat much since either, so my energy was pretty low. Half way around my block, I bent over, put my hands on my knees, and just cried.
My poor kid. He did not deserve this punishment for what he did. By accident.
It was wrong. And it hurt. Sure, he'll get over it. It's just a game. He's only 11. But right now, to him, it's everything. It meant everything.
I ached for him.
We all pretended it was any other game day and rushed out the door in time to drive 60 min to get there for a 30 min warm up. Tommy had been wearing his uniform since 9 a.m. ( 1:30 game ) but was told he had to cover it.
There's no place else we wanted to be than at the game, cheering on our team. We never considered anything else, not for a second.
Tommy ran ahead of us, but when Mark and I arrived we were greeted by some of our friends asking how Tommy was doing and reinforcing how lousy they thought it all was.
Then... they pointed out what a few kids had done. Two of the boys had used tape to convert their uniform numbers into Tommy's #88. Tears welled in my eyes.
The Coach's wife had also made little tape band with the number 88 on them for the kids to wear on their socks or shoes.
They started the game in a huddle and yelled 88! Same thing at half time, and at the end.
It was like family. True teammates. Something crummy had happened to one of them and they were all sticking by him. His penalty hurt that team. And yet, they were uniting behind him because of the way he was punished too severely and, because his is their friend. Their teammate. Not everyone has the chance to be part of a true team like this in their life. I am so grateful that my son is experiencing what it is like. He will always remember it.
Some people may have held a grudge or been mad at my kid for causing all the chaos. That penalty kick went in, the score was 1-0, they immediately scored again, and our team had to play without their defender. But instead, we felt nothing but love and support from a truly great group of people.
Remember, we're talking about pre-teen and early teenage boys. If you have some yourself, you know what I'm talking about. They aren't like girls who pass notes and tell each other all the ins and outs of their love and friendship for each other. They are too busy trying to be cool. Too busy trying to be the best at anything their doing together. They're tough and their expression of emotion and caring towards another boy that age has to been found between the lines.
And, we found it. It was in bright yellow highlighter. Thank you OCSC boys team, coaches and parents. We found our life lesson thanks to you all. There is nothing more important than true friends and family because when the chips are down, they are the ones who will pick you back up.
And that you did.
See you at practice.
Ange, Mark, Tommy,
Cameron & Nicholas