Of course I wanted the U.S. to win, but really people, Argentina is the best team in the world. Of course, I didn’t expect the total massacre, but then, they have Messi. And well, he tends to mess things up. (Perhaps this is how he got his last name?). I still loved watching. And I still love Graham”man bun” Zusi.
Oh no, I’m writing about soccer again, so those of you sick to death of reading about it can sign off now. I’ll wait. Go ahead. See you tomorrow……
It’s not exactly soccer, I want to write about. It’s the dark web of soccer, the hidden benefit, the unspoken hero of futbol. I’m specifically talking about the friendships that are made when big girls and little girls commit themselves to kicking a ball around a field with their feet, like they didn’t have hands.
This weekend was a reminder of this little-discussed phenomena, but I’ve been observing how this goes down for years. The real honest end of year soccer party happened Friday night. This is an off campus, wine drinking, dinner where the underclassmen roast the seniors. They do funny skits and write tear jerking letters to say goodbye.
This is my favorite end-of-year party, because it’s about one of the things that I understand. It’s not about offsides, or tackles, or set pieces, but instead about my part of the world–relationships.
The thing is, that while club soccer is based on performance among same-aged kids (and I should say, super strong relationships are made on this kind of team too, but that’s a whole other story), high school soccer is made up of a team of mixed-aged kids, so there is a big sister/little sister thing that happens, a role model deal, a mentor situation. And this, this is the real money shot of team sports, if you ask me. Especially for teenage girls.
Ally was one of two girls who made the varsity team her freshman year. This was exciting, but a little bit daunting, too. Lucky for her, a few exemplary senior girls took her by the hand and led her in all things, from soccer, to academics, to her social life. (I should say, we were lucky that Ally’s brother’s girlfriend happened to be one of these girls, who Ally knew well, which was pretty awesome, because this girl could be a role model for God.) At an impressionable moment in time, these girls were the girls Ally wanted to mimic. They were her blueprint for success, not just in soccer, but all things. The cuteness factor of these relationships was off the charts. The gushy way she spoke about these girls, dressed like them, and quoted them was adorable. And when they finished the season, and we had the traditional party to roast and toast the seniors, Ally cried so hard giving her speech, that she couldn’t speak.
Al was not a girl who played with dolls, or couldn’t wait to babysit. She didn’t have the kind of maternal side I had when I was young. So, I wondered if she would ever be a role model to a freshman when she became a senior. She didn’t have to, of course, but it interested me to see how she would react when she was the upperclassman.
When Ally was a junior, an unprecedented 12 freshman made varsity. And much to my surprise, Ally became a fun mother hen to many of them, one in particular. While I hadn’t thought she had it in her to be the “big sister,” right before my eyes, there she was setting an example, showing the freshman how to work hard on the field and off, while also having a good time. It was happening. Again.
Friday night it was Ally’s turn to hear from the girls who she had impacted. And as if on cue, four years after she was the girl standing up and reading from her phone, crying so hard she ultimately couldn’t speak, there were girls reading from their phones, crying so hard, they couldn’t speak.
You can tell me all you want about the benefits of physical activity from playing soccer, the way it makes you think strategically, keeping you nimble in your body and your mind. But if you ask me, I will tell you that high school soccer has the biggest impact on girls supporting and teaching other girls. I will tell you that the kind of relationships that are made are rock solid, and unforgettable. I will tell you that at a particularly vulnerable time, when the Kardashians are vying for the attention of every young girl, it’s these older, soccer-playing girls who can be the difference. I will tell you that to me, this is the goal of soccer. This is how soccer wins.
God, I hate endings. Beginnings are exciting, and middles are comfortable, but endings suck. Unless it’s like, the ending of winter. The ending of winter is the freaking best. I LOVE THE ENDING OF WINTER.
Yesterday was one of the many endings that you must endure during senior year, which is a festival of goodbye’s and last’s. And I cry at every one of them. And do you think I wear waterproof mascara? No, I do not. Because who doesn’t love that look of crusty black tear stains?
Anyway, yesterday’s goodbye party was for soccer. It was senior day, which as you might have guessed, is to honor the seniors on the team. As if this wasn’t a sad enough day for us, consider that Ally has missed all, but three games this season, due to the fact that she tore her ACL, so you can imagine how difficult this was. Ally took the first ceremonious kick, which made me cry, because then she had to walk off the field, and all I wanted is for her to be able to play. When my husband gets sad, he wants to eat, so immediately he wanted like, a cake, like a six layer, thick buttercream frosting cake that might be slowly spinning around in one of those glass display cases in a really good diner.
Anyway, it was also lovely. And it was really nice to see that this team, who has been plagued with injury, had some fabulous players emerge. There were so many girls who had developed and thrived, since I last saw a game (I’m sorry, but I couldn’t go without Ally playing. It was too hard, so this was my first game in a long while). Anyway, this year, some parents made plastic banners of the seniors, and there was the traditional posters made by players, and speeches, and gifts, and lots of pictures and tears. It was awesome, and awesomely sad.
Check that box, BHS girls varsity soccer, DONE. If there were an emoji crying a river, it would be right here.
I’m not an athlete. Sure, I work out, used to run, was a cheerleader (I can’t even), bike, swim, give Jane Fonda a run for her leg warmers, but I don’t have that competitive thing, that inner drive that makes you want to desecrate an opponent, makes you block out the rest of the world and just go the fuck for it.
But my dauaghter Ally does. My daugher Ally is an athlete. A competitor. A “beast”, as one of her earliest coaches used to describe her.
She has been playing soccer since she was five, showing promise even then. She worked her way up from the town rec. league to the travel team, to the bottom of a prestigious club team, and to its highest peak–the elite team, making her high school varsity team her freshman year. Along the way, there were bumps, and brusises, but mostly of her ego, as she learned more and more about how to play the game of soccer. Her commitment has always been total, her spirit, always undaunted, her road rage, full on, watch out, taking names and kicking ass.
To play at this level you have to give up a lot. Parties, weekends away, vacation weeks off, sleepovers, sometimes even friends who just don’t get it. She did all that, sometimes with a grunt, but mostly with a smile. She loved the ball. She loved the field. She loved the game.
In the past two years, her skills, body, and psyche merged and she became a force, the kind of soccer player coaches always knew she could be, the kind of player Ally always wanted to be. And so it was, her senior year, that she was killing it, and it looked as though she would have one of those high school fantasy seasons, with lots of pats on the back and accolades.
Until Friday night, when at a big game played under the lights at B.U.’s Nickerson Field, when going in for her third goal of the game, she was tripped, and went down.
And stayed down.
And just like that, her season ended. Her high school season ended right there. On that field, with a big crowd chanting her name. “Ally, Ally, Ally.”
She has the injury every soccer player fears (and every parent has nightmares about), a torn ACL. This is the season-ending KIng of injuries, as it requires surgery and a 6-8 month recovery, depending on who you talk to. This is the bitch.
And that’s where we are, three consults in quick succession this week, with surgeons who will cut into her virgin knee and aim to make things right. We went from our biggest worry being how to get to playoffs to how to get through rehab.
But see, I’m the one who’s crying, not Ally. Because Ally is an athlete. She is not looking forward to surgery, but she is looking forward to coming back, stronger than ever. Because Ally is an athlete. And everything that means.
Last night my friend Karen and I watched the Women’s World Cup, eating a big ass salad, and drinking wine, and yelling so dang loudly, Riley thought we might be in danger, and responded with concerned and relentless barking. My house was a hot mess of noise.
Ally and Peter were in the crowd. A meaningful daddy/daughter moment for these two, who have been on Ally’s soccer journey for more than a decade. This is one devoted soccer dad, I can tell you. I go to the games, but I told Peter early on, my back wouldn’t hold up for the kind of driving Ally’s club team required, And so he leaves work, he puts aside whatever he’s doing, and does the car pool, and always has. And these practices aren’t around the corner. And then there are the tournaments, which are inconveniently located all over the place. Yup, Peter has put on some serious mileage for his girl. And has learned about a sport that he never had any interest in. In fact, he will watch it by himself now (which isn’t saying much, as the people in my house will watch fucking flyfishing if it’s on, so obsessed are they with sports). So, this game was a perfect way to kick off the summer of choosing a college Ally can play soccer at.
I too, have learned to love soccer. And the US team really has my heart. What woman doesn’t love a game that so empowers girls? I’ve seen that ball change lives, make girls sweat with happiness, challenge the spirit in the best of ways.
Here’s to that cup going to the USA. This country has really been on a seriously awesome roll for the last week, let’s keep it going, girls. USA, USA!
Having not been an athlete growing up (I was a cheerleader, but Ally says that doesn’t count), I’m always wowed by my daughter’s soccer skills. It’s not just that she knows what to do with a ball on the field, it’s that she actually has balls on the field. Which is to say that she’s brave. She goes out there and has to listen to trash talk, play against girls bigger and better, and not bow underneath the intense pressure of a team that’s relying on every player to do their best. Some games are such high intensity, I barely have what it takes to watch from the sidelines.
Team play is as good as any class you can take. You learn things you couldn’t learn anywhere else. And lots of them are about yourself. Ally has given up a lot to play at the high level she chooses to play at, but she lives for the rush, the camaraderie, I think maybe even the stress. Nothing I’ve ever done (except maybe watch all the seasons of Lost,which took a huge emotional toll, let’s face it) compares to the commitment that she’s given to sports. I had to learn about hard work, resilience, and tenacity elsewhere. But Ally has been practicing those skills since she was five. And she’s actually had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends while she was doing it.
As the college thing approaches (we just came back from a college showcase tournament), soccer will be a huge consideration for Ally, as she chooses where she’ll spend her four years. Soccer, which has been such a big part of her life, will now become an even bigger part of her more adult life. I marvel at her strength. I envy her love of the game. I am grateful to be able to have watched her grow up on a field. Turns out fields are really good at helping you grow up. I wish I’d known that when I was a kid.
Today the BHS girls varsity soccer team hits their home field for their first playoff game in 38 years! Unfortunately, the game is at 2:00, meaning that lots of parents can’t come, and of course, none of the students can come either, but Peter and I will be there! And I will be yelling extra loud, which means even if you’re reading this from the UK, Bulgaria, or Australia, you’ll likely be able to hear me.
Fingers crossed for a win, but even if they lose, they’ve already won. Warrior pride, baby!
To be a good soccer parent, 9/10th’s of the law states “NO GLOATING. EVER.” But just for today, just this once, I’m going to have to break that law. So throw me in jail. Go head.
Yesterday Ally’s team was playing the rival team of Newton North. Last year they won the State Championship, and crushed us. They’re always, in fact, crushing us. What with their giant, gorgeous new school, and their great sports teams, they are usually, in all sports, the team to beat. Anyway, this is always a big game. And it’s always even bigger for Ally because the coach of Newton North has been her Club Team coach for the past three years. It was super beautiful out, I crutched myself there, along with the boy’s Varsity soccer team, and a pretty big crowd of parents and kids. N.N. had a slew of graduating seniors last year, so we knew their team was not going to be in its usual kick-ass form, and with our awesome new coach, and a bunch of strong new freshman, we had our fingers crossed.
We dominated, but we couldn’t seem to score. Our goalie got knocked out by a deep cut, which required stitches, so we had to use a field player as goalie (the other goalie had a possible concussion). Things were tense, when Miss Ally Lansbury made a left-footed goal. OH YES SHE DID! The crowd went wild and I totally wanted to abandon my boot and dance, but realized that would not be a smart move, so instead I screamed more loudly than I ever have. In my life. Like, ever. I tell you, the parents in Newton who weren’t at the game, must have heard me. (I’m hoarse today). For a moment the world actually stopped. Seriously, I’m fairly certain if you check your watch, it is exactly one minute slow today. It was just a perfect confluence of things that came together to make a memory that will be with my family until the day we breathe our last breaths, and then some.
Here’s why it was extra special cool: Ally’s Club coach has always given her feedback about “finishing,” that she’s a great player, but she has to finish. So the fact that she did and that it “finished” his team was just as good as it gets. Ally’s goal was the only goal of the game, which, if you haven’t already put two and two together, means we won!
So, sorry for gloating, but that one perfect moment is too good not to share. It’s funny how sometimes things come together like they did yesterday. And when they do, you gotta take notice, on account of how much they don’t. So, Gooooooo Warriors. And congratulations to my rock star daughter. OH YES I DID.