As you ran down the field, you held your arms straight down to your sides, as if someone had glued them to your torso, and propelled yourself forward with all the momentum your chubby legs could muster.
You explained later, "The coach said we couldn't use hands."
"Ah," I said, "you are a good listener."
A group effort, the team traveled en masse, following the path of the ball like a swarm of bees. It was collective chaos- cleats, shin guards and giggles, in motion.
I doubt any of you knew where you were headed. Not that it mattered.
The crowd roared anyway.
And your dad ate popcorn.
The other night, I watched another soccer game, young men with long limbs, under the lights. They played with determination and fervor, strength and purpose. They worked as individuals within a team, each understanding his position and contribution. Each knew where the ball needed to be, and had the notion as to how it might get there. It was fast and physical play, any sacrifice worth the victory.
You jumped to head off the ball. Your opponent had a similar idea.
"Ah!" I yelled. "Watch the teeth, Buddy!"
The crowd roared.
Your dad ate popcorn.
And just like that, 15 years of soccer have come and gone.
Truthfully, it was a lot of dirty socks, sack lunches and sitting in the rain. It was a lot of driving and eating hotdogs for dinner. It was the unidentifiable odor of a gym bag.
It was a grand privilege.
We didn't see the lessons as they came, but they are clear now.
You learned far more than the skills of the game.
You learned that sometimes it takes years of practice before experiencing the results of achievement.
You learned that just because you are tired does not mean that you quit.
You have listened and recognized greatness is something you grow into.
Thursday evening, your dad and I will proudly escort you across that soccer field, a tribute to a senior in his final game.
Indeed, a season has ended.
You will move on, setting new goals to achieve. Set the bar high. You know where you are headed. Take
the ball and run with it!
We are still cheering you on.