I have observed over the past three years of travel soccer-parenting that if the other team's coach does his coaching exclusively in Spanish, there's a tough game ahead for us far more often than not. This statement is not intended to be discriminatory or racist in any way: the general difference in skill level between the players on my sons' teams and their age-matched peers on these mostly-Hispanic teams is clear, objective and speaks for itself.
At any rate, with this in mind, you will understand my level of concern when I arrived with Thing Two at the field where his scheduled game was being played today (Himself and I were in our usual divide-and-conquer mode for the day's obligations) and noted both that we were one man short for the game and that their coach was speaking Spanish. Especially since Thing Two's team has not been doing well this season anyway, and the last thing they needed before next week's tryouts was another crushing defeat. We ended up forfeiting the game for lack of a full team, but since we did have a partial team at the field (and had driven an hour to get there!) we played a 7 v 7 game anyway, one man down from the normal 8 v 8 format but with no subs on our side.
To add icing to the cake, Thing Two came running up to me right before the game asking for his other jersey, since his coaches were putting him in goal to start the game. Note that this kid hasn't been a keeper since his last Rec game in the fall (two of his absent teammates share the travel job), and never saw this level of competition in a Rec game anyway, but he was the best shot they had today. By coincidence, the mother of a kid who plays on Thing One's team commented to me only a day or two ago that the most stressful position on a soccer field is the mother of the goalie, and I smiled wryly to myself in recognition and settled down to endure a painful game.
Let me just tell you that my kid kicked some *serious* freaking ass today. They shot on him and shot on him and shot on him, and he grabbed pretty much everything that came toward the goal--only a few got by him and there was virtually nothing he could have done about those. I was so proud I was jumping up and down and hollering like a fool on the sideline, and everyone else was pretty much stunned.
You see, he's one of the new kids. He hasn't done badly in travel by any means, but hasn't been a standout either. They've been playing him mostly on defense, which historically has not been his strongest suit...he's mostly alternated between keeper and striker in the past. So, today he had a chance to shine in a position with which he's actually familiar (pace of play notwithstanding), and damned if the kid didn't grab that chance with both hands and run with it. He may have himself a new position come next week, who knows. But the absolute best part?? The reaction of his teammates. To a man, they came up and congratulated him after the game. For the kid who sometimes has trouble fitting in, absolutely priceless...I came undone behind my sunglasses.