The games of our youth

The crowds were decked out in either orange or blue.  The anticipation was evident in the players’ eyes.  They were slapping each other and cheering, working hard to stay focused before the opening kick.  
I could feel my muscles tighten as the start of the game got closer.  My thoughts were all over the place.  “Play your best”.  “Don’t get hurt”.  “I sure hope we win”.  
The coaches were obviously pumped up, slapping the players on the back, encouraging them to play their best.  My nerves were raw enough I found myself biting my fingernail.
There is really no sport that gets me more excited this time of year than, you guessed it – youth soccer.   There must be some omen for me as Henry’s team in Bainbridge has orange shirts, and Laura’s team in Dothan has blue shirts.
I can yell at the coaches on both teams, because they are both my sons-in-law.  Daaron is one of the coaches on the Hardee’s Rapids team.  Grant helps coach the Micro-shockers.
Both Henry and Laura have improved greatly since last year.  They already know more about soccer than their grandfather, which is not saying a lot.  After all, I had never even heard of the game when I was their age.
Henry has really gotten into the spirit of the game this year.  He is aggressive, likes to get in the middle of things, and runs like a gazelle.  His speed on the field must have come from his other grandfather.
Laura is more aggressive this year as well, although on any given game day she may be more concerned about her ponytail and what kind of snacks they will have during halftime.  
My grandfather saw almost every baseball game I ever played at that age.  I want my grandchildren to be able to say the same thing about me and their soccer matches.  The difference is I don’t live in the same town they do and between them there are three matches a week.
It doesn’t matter though because this is a unique time in the lives of children that are a part of me.  They are growing like hydrilla right before my eyes.  They make good, athletic plays that indicate they are getting more coordinated, competitive and confident.  
I grew up loving everything there was to love about baseball.  Later I became a devoted fan of the Auburn Tigers and college football in general.  But for right now, my heart and soul belong on the soccer fields in Dothan and Bainbridge.  I will cheer at the top of my lungs for two teams in general, and two players in particular.  No matter how they play they are the best.  
There is a little toddler on the sidelines waiting his turn.  Will may be the best of them after growing up as the youngest.  It won’t matter, though, how good he is.  God willing I will be there watching him one day as well.
At this point, they are happy, healthy and learning about sports and life at the same time.  Such is the beauty of the games of our youth.
o0o
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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