My U12 House league team finished its season on a chilly, windy Saturday morning, completing a four-team mini-tournament with a win on penalty kicks.
After the game, the parents gave me a photo book. The joy of the season was on every page. Each player had a couple of pictures and a comment or two about the season and the team. One player even had a message for the people who hand out coaching licenses, telling them they should just hand me whatever license I was seeking. (I’m halfway to the D.)
Some teams in our league have been together, more or less, for a few years. Our team isn’t like that, but I did coach a lot of these players back when they were U8s. A couple of them played travel soccer for a few years and returned to House league this year so they could play multiple sports without overloading their schedules. Some play soccer every other season. Some moved to our town more recently.
But we have a wonderful bond. A couple of the families live in my neighborhood. I see others at school when I pick up my kids.
After our game and the postgame festivities, I drove one of our players home. Then I swung by another player’s home to drop off the photo he wasn’t able to pick up because he was sick. His little sister heard me in the hallway and called out, “Hi, Coach Beau!”
I know travel teams can build up this sort of bond over time. But there’s something unique about a team built around a school and a neighborhood.
These kids did learn a few things about soccer over the course of the season. A couple of players did things in the last game that they couldn’t have done in the first. We had some productive practices, and something sunk in.
But we also made and strengthened friendships. And I got a book I’ll treasure.
Have you read Single-Digit Soccer yet? Read more about it here.