Going out with a bang

Sarah played in a soccer tournament this past weekend. We had committed her as a “guest” player for a team of kids comprised largely of girls from our summer swim team prior to her being diagnosed with severe inflammation in her Achilles’ tendon. She knew these would be her final few games until next fall when we could have her feet and ankles reevaluated by our orthopedic specialist.

Sarah wasn’t able to practice with these girls prior to the tournament. I never thought to ask the single most important question, the position they needed her to play. As fate would have it, they needed her on defense, a position I don’t recall her ever playing.

Aside from the fact that it was miserably cold, it was fun to watch her play. The kids and parents were very welcoming. She knew the coach and his daughter very well so she felt very comfortable with them. Sarah took on her position as if it were second nature. She communicated well with the other players. She played with heart and sole and a whole lot of scrappy. I hadn’t seen her this relaxed on the field in well over a year.

Even though Sarah loved her old soccer coach and team, it also had become a stressful environment. There was a lot of pressure on the kids. By the coach, the other kids and by the parents. Too much by the parents. They all envision their kids future collegiate soccer players. I saw them as a nice average group of kids. Which is why I suppose we didn’t fit in all the time.

Sarah has always been nicknamed scrappy. It suits her well. This past weekend was no exception. I’m proud of her for not being intimidated playing a new position and for working hard as an individual player and in an unfamiliar team environment. I saw her having fun. Something she hadn’t done with soccer in a long while. Well done Sarah. Well done. Lets put the cleats away now and get you better. And maybe consider defense in the future. She was a natural at it.

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Watching greatness

My girls swim at an amazing facility. When we first started swimming there we were really impressed with it. But all things that are shiny and new become dull and boring after a while. When you look at something long enough you start to take it for granted. It isn’t until we host a meet that we are reminded how lucky we are. Or when we go to a meet at a pool in dire need of being renovated. Or torn down. I sat in a downpour at a meet recently. It was an indoor pool. Leaky roof. We are spoiled.

This past weekend, Metros were held at our pool. The very one I spend 7 days a week at. Because we were hosting this large meet, our kids did not have Friday or Saturday practice. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have stepped foot in that building. But these were not normal circumstances.

Jack Conger, who swims for our club and made it to Olympic trials, was making a stab at the 500 free record – the oldest record on the books. The record had been set 30 years ago and last year Jack missed it by 1.12 seconds. We were hoping he would get it at preliminaries, I was anxious for him. He missed it by 4 seconds. Pressure was on for Saturday night.

Katie Ledecky swam five heats later in the women’s 500 free. While she swims for a competing club, we absolutely adore our local Olympic hero. While I have been at many meets she has swam in, I have never watched her swim…You see, she used to just be a normal kid who swam really fast. They are a dime a dozen in DC metro. While I never noticed her two years ago, I found myself excited to watch her swim up close and personal. In the very same lane my kids swim in night after night. The middle lane has always been special but I will look at it a little differently from now on, especially when my kids get to race in it. Seeing Katie swim was amazing. She is beautiful in the water. She lapped all of the fast kids.

My girls who are convinced the pool is their home tore off downstairs and had Katie sign everything and anything they could get their hands on.

Katie is the queen of awesome. She swims for a competing club remember? Yet she signed RMSC caps, t-shirts and swim bags. She even posed for a photo with the girls. Actually, she took it! She is a role model both in and out of the water.

Night two? Finals. Jack came back with a vengeance. Lots of records were set. The biggest, Jack broke that 30 year old record. He posted am impressive 4.13.87 on 500 free. I missed it – but I did get to see Sarah score at her second to last Futsal game. It’s all good.

It is a honor to see these kids in our pool. Katie, a sophomore Olympic gold medalist and Jack, a senior with a bright future. My girls were on cloud 9.

I won’t look at our pool the same for a while. The future of greatness might just be practicing in that lane.

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It’s a disease?

True to form, Sarah has been complaining of foot pain lately.  For some reason every spring she has managed to injure a body part.  We have been through two stress fractures and one pulled tendon in the knee.  This time around she was having ankle pain which I was attributing to the Achilles tendon.

I feel like I have earned an MD since having kids.  A google MD that is.  After complaining about the pain for a few weeks I decided to take her to our orthopedic specialist.  I say “our” like we own them.  We might.  When we leave they say “see you in six months”.  When your kid has the nickname scrappy it is bound to happen.

After a few X-rays it was determined that Sarah has Sever’s Disease.  I gave an air fist pump and Napoleon Dynamite style “YES!’.  I hit the self diagnosis jackpot.  Love google.

Sarah’s eyes got enormous….I HAVE A DISEASE?  Sounds frightening doesn’t it?  It is actually quite common amongst active kids.

Sever’s disease, also called calcaneal apophysitis, is a painful bone disorder that results from inflammation  of the growth plate in the heel. A growth plate, is an area at the end of a developing bone where cartilage cells change over time into bone cells. As this occurs, the growth plates expand and unite, which is how bones grow.

Sever’s disease is a common cause of heel pain in growing kids, especially those who are physically active. It usually occurs during the growth spurt of adolescence, the approximately 2-year period in early puberty when kids grow most rapidly. This growth spurt can begin any time between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys. Sever’s disease rarely occurs in older teens because the back of the heel usually finishes growing by the age of 15, when the growth plate hardens and the growing bones fuse together into mature bone.

Sarah is going to live.  No need to send flowers.  But it sure makes the painful decision not to play soccer in the spring seem like a brilliant one.

We decided to push the “no weight-bearing activities” treatment plan a little.  She won’t practice futsal but will play her last three games.  She is willing to deal with the pain, knowing it will be the end.

We did get some good news.  Sarah, the smallest on the growth scale of the three, may end up the tallest.  The upside of large growth plates at 11?  Lots of growing left to do.

And once again, thanks to Sarah, we have met our annual deductible by February!  I love my scrappy girl.

Decisions, indecisions…

Sarah has spent the last two weeks in a period of indecision. She has been struggling to decide if she wants to return to her soccer team for the spring season. It had already been decided this would be their last season together as a team. Sarah has been with this team for over four years. She had created a lot of found memories with this group of girls.  Her coach is the only soccer coach she has ever really known.  The dynamic of the team has changed somewhat over the years, kids have come and gone. Despite that, it seems like they have been together forever even though Sarah is one of two girls from the original team.

I was really surprised by her indecision. Sarah is anything but undecided. The final outcome though didn’t surprise me at all.

Sarah wanted to ride it out to the end. She wanted the final hurrah. It saddens me that this dynamic group of strong, independent fierce young girls will no longer be battling it out on the muddy fields. It seems unimaginable not to have our twice a year-end of seasons together. No more bon fires, hay rides or trips together for soft serve ice cream after a game in the hot sun.  This final season was sure to be fun.  Right?

Despite it being the last season, the coach was adding players to the roster, increasing the number of practices and stressing the level of intensity and commitment required for the last season.  We went from one to two and finally three practices or games that conflicted with swim practice.  Because Sarah was still able to get her swim time in we always went to the soccer practices.  When the coach added the last practice time Sarah was truly conflicted.

Yesterday was D-Day.  Having played a pretty decent Futsal game on Saturday even scoring, I was fairly certain she would decide to continue playing soccer.

I sat her down at noon.  We had a mandatory team meeting at 4.  I needed her decision.  She looked at me and for the final time said “mom, I don’t know what I want to do”.  I refused to make this decision for her so I said “Sarah, skip spring and let’s regroup in the fall.”  Her response.  Fine.  I typed an email to her coach and handed her my phone.  I asked for her to read it.  She added one line:

This is Sarah.  I will miss everyone.  I hope you have a fun season.  Love ya.

And then looked at me and said should I hit send.

I had to hide my emotion as I said yes.  That was the response I needed.  She needed to hit send.  And she did without hesitation.  It was heart breaking but also a total relief.  The decision was made.  By her.

I have had some time now to think about it and I think we are both mourning the loss of what no longer is.  The team she knew and loved has grown from baby faced first graders to preteen fifth grader.  They have grown, matured and become so much.  I will forever be grateful to her coach and the wonderful group of girls and parents for all of the wonderful memories we have made.  But it is time to move on.

We are looking for a new team in the fall.  Sarah will be in middle school.  She is such a strong young woman.  But also my baby.  I will always protect her and I think this break will be good for her.  She needs to be Sarah the soccer player, not Sarah, one of the many Red Hots.  She is ready to stand on her own.  I am proud of her.

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Not sure what to do with this one…

Sarah is playing indoor futsal.  Her soccer coach decided to do this rather than indoor soccer.  Sarah is not a huge fan of it so far.  There practices and games are on a gym floor and it involves more bouncing than indoor soccer.  It seems to be kind of hard on the body.

Her coaches last season with the girls is the spring season.  We just got the email with the practice days, times and fees for spring.  As a parent I have learned to ALWAYS ask my kids if they want to continue something before I pay for it.  I made this mistake once.  You don’t make that mistake twice.

I asked Sarah if she wanted to play the spring season.  Her response took me by surprise.

Sarah is all or none.  She IS or IS NOT going to do something.  Adamant, forceful, determined, firm, tenacious, stubborn and relentless are words I would use to describe Sarah.  I am pretty sure I have never heard her speak the words I don’t know.

Her response, you decide.

I went to her coach and explained to her what happened.  She agreed to give Sarah a week.  We are on day 5.   She will not commit to me if she wants to play or not.  I don’t care either way, I want her to be happy.  I can’t make this decision for her.  She has to decide.  Today I decided to ask her to list the pros and cons of continuing to play.  Pros – she sees her friends.  Cons – she can’t commit fully to swimming.

She has two more days.  I don’t have a clue what to do with a “you decide”.  It isn’t in Sarah’s character to be non committal.  I should be able to read what it really means.  I can’t.

 

Gaining sight? Finding perspective?

Sarah’s soccer team has been going through a lot of transitions in the past year. At the beginning of this year they moved from a recreational league to a slightly more competitive league. The girls practiced twice a week instead of one and were expected to work daily on foot skills and conditioning. They lost every game but one.

For the winter season they opted to play Futsal instead of indoor soccer and will return to the same outdoor league come spring. The coach has decided spring will be her last season with the girls and is working with the parents to find the right transition into fall not only for the team but each individual girl. She asked us to consider as a family the following:

1. Are you willing to commit to five practices a week?
2. Are you willing to travel one weekend a month to tournaments?
3. Do you want to play soccer in college?

And the question not asked? As a parent are you willing to pay in excess of $5k a year to play soccer?

I will make it easy. No. To all of the above. Especially the question everyone is dancing around. A select group of parents are driving this increased level of commitment.

As much as I grumble about the cost of swimming, I spend less than that on all three girls swimming in a year. Yes, we are at the pool 7 days a week. Yes we travel occasionally for a swim meet – more often than not we don’t. But all three participate in swimming for less cost.

If asked to commit to one sport, Sarah would chose soccer over swimming. The problem is, I can’t commit to the expected level of commitment that a select few parents have decided we need to have if the team is to move forward as a group.

I decided not to react. Surely other parents would feel the same way I do. One can dream right?

You win some, you lose some

Last night was the final soccer game of the season for Sarah.  It was extremely cold and windy and I wasn’t looking forward to it.  I contemplated watching the game from the car.

The team they played were some of the worst sports men, women and children I have ever seen.  It clearly came from the coaches, trickled right down to the parents and the kids.  I am sure in the rest of their lives these people are good people, probably people I would hang out with and enjoy their company.  They just don’t know how to act on the field.

I don’t know if it was the cold weather or just that it was a late Friday night but our team responded by having a blast.  We cheered for our kids, laughed, and at one point all broke out in a dance.

I have no problem with winning in a team sport.  It is fun.  It’s the only true test of how well you played.  But I would much rather hang around with this group of losers any day.

It looks like Coach is hanging on another season, so we can get through spring and find a new coach to take over.  Her shoes will be hard to fill.

It was a bittersweet loss, but one I am proud of.

Please don’t go.

Sad.

Sarah has been with the same soccer coach for 4 years now, since first grade.  Coach K is amazing and incredible.  She makes the girls work hard, teaches them to be respectful of each other and fellow competitors as well as respect for the game.  She is the type of role model we can only hope for our young girls to have.

On the way to her soccer game Friday night Sarah said “I am going to play with Coach K forever”.  I had to hide my tears from her.  That same morning we had gotten an email from the coach apologizing profusely because she had to step down as their coach.  In simple terms, life was getting in the way.

I by no means blame her.  She works full-time and is in graduate school.  She also volunteers her time to these girls and is not compensated in any manner.  The gift card we give her at the end of each season doesn’t even begin to properly express our gratitude.

She has asked us not to tell the girls yet and I will respect her wishes.  I don’t even know how to explain it to Sarah, she will take it hard.

I try to teach my kids to be adaptable.  I want them to get along with all coaches and teachers.  I don’t want them to have favorites and I don’t want them to talk about teachers and coaches in terms of mean, bad, hard, easy.  I think everyone who coaches and teaches our children has something positive to offer, we need to learn to deal with everyone and having someone new step in can always be a positive.

Except in the case of Coach K.  She was supposed to be there forever.  Change is good.  Right?

It’s a wrap

First swim meet of the season.  Done and done.  Sophie as you know snuck hers in the weekend before, Grace and Sarah swam this weekend.

Sarah scored the early warm ups.  By scored I mean, sucks to be 9-10 this time.  None of us are morning people.  Sarah is no exception.  Saturday morning though she woke up quite chipper.  So in this particular case it actually sucked to be me who had to drive her hyper self to the warm ups.  Somehow I managed to convince Chris to take her Sunday morning, I have no idea how that wake up call went.

Sarah is still somewhat on the fence about how she feels about swimming.  She never complains about practice, worked very hard to get in the harder practice group a few times a week and gives practice her all.  I am still convinced she does it for the nachos.  She also happens to be ultra competitive.  She swam 6 events and got 6 best times.  She was quite pleased with everything.  Oh and she got nachos.  Twice.  Sarah also had a soccer game on Friday night where she did an impressive header and a rainbow.  Sarah is really into the soccer tricks.  I wish there was a Harlem Globe Trotters equivalent for soccer.  She would be a shoe in!

Grace had a longer weekend, swimming 500 free on Friday, two events Saturday afternoon and three on Sunday.  Grace has a bad habit of swimming too conservative in the longer distances.  Dad harps on her about this, telling her not to swim scared.  The 500 free is the only event that will get me on deck.  Because I have to time.  I got to overhear Grace’s coach giving her race strategy.  He told her simply, swim it fast.  Grace sprinted the first 350 of the race.  And then she died.  I thought we either had a Katie Ledecky in the making OR I was going to fish her ass out of the pool.  I really thought about emptying my pockets in fear I was going to have to go in after her.  That would have sucked, I had blown out my hair that day.  She made it to the wall with a best time.  Not a great time but a best time.  She learned a valuable lesson.  That she wouldn’t die if she went all out.

She had five other races, 200 free she tanked, late on Sunday.  She did well on her 100 and 200 backstroke.  The highlight of the met was that she finally broke a minute on her 100 free!  She showed about the same emotion as she did when she tanked her 200 free, although I think she was jumping up and down for joy in her mind.  She is almost 13, emotion is not an option.  (In swimming that is!).

It was a great weekend.  I am proud of both girls.  They worked really hard and had a great first meet.  I am especially grateful that Sarah enjoys it after wanting to quit at the end of last spring season.

Good luck this year to all our swim friends.  I would love to hear your updates.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-OD_iwFkkw&feature=plcp

And yes that is my stupid loud self yelling!