Welcome to Medfield Soccer
Goal Achievement By Daniel Marks, October 27, 2015
This is a very different kind of article for me. It’s not about baseball. It involves no research, no reference to history, no study of any kind. I have absolutely no idea of how well it will be received, or if it’s of any interest to anyone out there. It may not be a great fit for the web site, but I’m going to take a chance and post it anyway, because one of the guidelines is to write what we’re interested in, and this event really hit home for me.
I’ve been a "writer" for all of 3 months now, and it’s changed the way that I think of things. I look for things to write about, and I try to look all around me for potential topics. This article is about something that just happened this past weekend, something I observed, and something I felt like sharing.
My daughter is 11 years old, and she plays in a recreational soccer league. She’s pretty inexperienced…..she played organized soccer for the first time in the Spring, and decided to come back and participate in the Fall. She is still learning the game, but is enjoying it very much.
The local soccer league is a very large organization, and it’s a big deal around here. There are several different groups based on age and gender. This is the type of league where, at the beginning, all players register and provide background on how skilled and experienced they are, with one of the goals of the organizers being that they want to form teams that are fairly balanced in skill levels and experience.
You may play on one team in the Spring, and find yourself on another one in the Fall. They make exceptions for kids of coaches, so that the kid can play for his or her own parent. The players and the parents, for the most part, seem very familiar with each other outside of soccer, with many attending the same schools, or at least attending the same school district. The emphasis is on learning and having fun, although of course competitive juices do emerge.
The particular group that my daughter participates in is pretty small relative to the others – there are only enough girls to form 4 teams, so the teams get pretty familiar with each other. Let’s call the teams Team A, Team B, Team C, and Team D.
In the Spring, I felt like the league did a really good job of spreading the good players around to the 4 teams. They’re never perfectly balanced, of course…..but I felt like the games were pretty competitive and pretty evenly matched, and every team that I observed had their moments. My daughter’s team, over the course of the schedule, lost to each of the other 3 teams at least once, but also beat each of them at least once. The games were fun to watch. There was no tournament at the end.
The Fall schedule consisted of 11 games (not every team played each other an equal number of times), then a round-robin tournament where all teams play each other once, and then there’s a final between the 2 top teams from the round-robin phase. In contrast to the Spring, it became pretty clear early on that the league had not been as successful at spreading the talent around. I doubt it was intentional….it’s just the way it worked out. I think it happens sometimes.
Teams A & B clearly got the best players this time around. They were much better than C and D. My daughter’s team was Team C, and we had a few good players, but there was a definite disparity in the skill levels. However, compared to Team D, we seemed like the national team from Brazil.
In the regular 11-game schedule, Teams A & B both won every game they played against us, as well as every game they played against team D. My daughter’s team, Team C, won every game they played against team D (we played 4 times in the 11 game schedule). Team D ended up winless.
I never saw the official final results, but I believe the records ended up like this (wins-losses-ties):
Team A 9-1-1
Team B 8-2-1
Team C 4-7-0
Team D 0-11-0
In our next to last game, we played Team D for the 4th time. Team D did not have enough players to play, so they had to forfeit the game. But, the girls were there, the officials were there, so they decided to play an unofficial game, with 2 of Team C’s players temporarily "joining" team D. My daughter was one of the ones who switched sides. She seemed very excited to play with a borrowed jersey. I think she liked the color. Later, she confided in me that she enjoyed playing for them. "They were all really nice and supportive", she told me.
And the kids had a great time. It was loose, it was fun. I can’t even remember the final score, but Team C scored more goals and "won" anyway. Towards the end, though, one of Team D’s players scored a nice little goal by chipping a shot over the goalie, and was very excited.
After the game I noticed that girl’s parents and said a friendly hello to them. I complimented them on their daughter’s goal. They said, "Yes, it was very exciting. That’s the second goal that the team scored this year!".
I was stunned. Not the girl’s second goal of the season….the team’s second goal. They had scored 1 goal in the first 9 games, and even this 2nd goal didn’t count, because it wasn’t an official game. So, they had basically scored 1 official goal all year.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been stunned. I knew our team had won all 4 games against them, but I hadn’t stopped to think about the prospect that they had been that unsuccessful in scoring all year long.
Well, come tournament time, it was more of the same. Team B beat our team in the first game, and Team A beat team D. Team D again did not score.
2nd game – Team A beat our team, and Team B beat team D. Again, Team D did not score.
At this point, the finals had in essence been decided. Team A and Team B both were 2-0 in the tournament, and Teams C & D were 0-2. Team A and Team B faced off in the 3rd game of the round robin, but it didn’t really matter. They would play again in the finals to determine the champion later that day.
Team C and Team D played their final game against each other to complete the round robin phase. In essence, it was to determine who would officially finish 3rd in the tournament.
Team C scored a goal early in the game, and most of the game it stayed that way. 1-0. Along the way, I started paying particular attention to Team D’s coach. I had actually noticed him in the earlier games we had played them, but he was particularly animated this time. He was constantly yelling out instructions, directions, and encouragement to his players. "It’s our throw-in. Quickly! Quickly!", "Center the ball!", "You’re too bunched up! Spread out!" Now, these are normal to hear, but it seemed constant from this guy, all game long. In rare dead moments, you could hear him yelling to the parents, "Let’s make some noise! Get some excitement going! Give them encouragement!". And they responded. A simple successful pass from one team mate to another was cheered enthusiastically by the coach with a "Way to go!" Nice "through balls" that nevertheless led to weak, errant shots were greeted with "Good idea! Nice try!" Throughout the game, you would hear him shout "We’re not tired….they are!" The man never stopped coaching. Zero wins all year. 1 goal. He never lost his desire, never lost his enthusiasm. His team kept playing hard.
The game stayed 1-0 until there were only about 2 minutes left in the game. There was a bit of scramble for the ball on one side of the field, and Team D emerged with a 2-on-1 break. One player centered the ball perfectly to a teammate, and she kicked it, in stride, low and hard and past our goal keeper and into the right side of the net. It was now 1-1. The parents of Team D erupted. The girls were elated. The coach jumped so high he could have dunked a basketball.
For a moment I felt kind of bad for my daughter’s team. My understanding was that there was some kind of prize for 3rd place in the tournament, and this seemed to jeopardize that. They played the last couple of minutes, and the score remained 1-1. There was some discussion that they would have to keep playing overtime to break the tie and determine the 3rd place team, but the officials convened and informed everyone that, no, there were only prizes for the top 2 teams, so the game ended in a 1-1 tie, and that was it.
I went over to meet my daughter at the sidelines, and everyone was disbanding to go home. However, I noticed Team D’s coach had called over all of his players and all of their parents to the sideline. I overheard just a little bit of what he said. He thanked the parents profusely for all of their support through the season, and he told his girls that he had never been more proud of a team than he was of this one, for how hard they played, for the effort they gave, for never giving up. And every last one of his players had a huge smile. One of the girls said, "Hey coach….we broke our perfect losing streak!". And he replied, "Yeah, I guess we did".
I felt like going over to have a word with him, but he was tied up with his players and the parents, and I didn’t want to intrude, and we had to get going anyway. I wish I had, though. I would have liked to have expressed to him how much I admired the job he did. The league dealt him a tough hand, and he stayed optimistic, he kept coaching, he kept teaching, his team never gave up, his team always played hard, and in the end, with 2 minutes left in the season, they had a big moment. For some, a tie leaves one feeling empty and unfulfilled. In this case, though, scoring a rare goal and coming away with a tie was, for one team, like winning the World Cup.
My daughter’s at the age where her interests change pretty quickly. She may try her hand at something else next year. She may try basketball. She’s hinted at dancing. If she decides to return to soccer, though, I know a coach I sure wouldn’t mind her playing for. And maybe this time, I’ll take the opportunity to congratulate him on his success. His team took home no trophies, but they were winners nonetheless.