A Soccer Dream

Parents are forced to make a lot of tough decisions. Decisions that play a part in who our child is, who he will become. Our decisions form our child's future. And some decisions we make, we just don't know what is right. We can only listen to our child, take our experience, and hope we do what is right. At this time, I am facing such a decision. It's one that has me filled with pride, but also uncertainty as to what is right.

Last night, one of the board members of Jari's soccer club dropped by to speak with us. Jari is currently on a team for kids under 9, and next year will move up to the under 10 team. He is one of 2 kids on the team who plays really well, and proved himself again and again this past year in technique, speed, and scoring. He is the best in his class (I say that with pride).

He has always been extremely shy, and with that shyness there's a tiny piece of him that holds back. Towards the end of the season, we noticed that our son was becoming more aggressive (in a good, sport way) and becoming more self-assured in his abilities. He didn't let a bigger player get in his way, but fought to get a ball or used tricks to make a play. He is a fun player to watch, and we were extremely proud of him for conquering his fear and going for it. It only made him better.

So, last night we get the visit. They asked us if we would be willing to allow Jari to skip the under 10 group and move into the under 11 team. That means he would be skipping an entire age bracket, and seeing that he is the youngest on his team (August birthday) and also the smallest for his age, he could be competing against kids 2 years his senior. The soccer club feels Jari is ready to advance, and doesn't want to hold him back by placing him in the under 10 team. They feel that physically he has enough strength to move up, and his talent for soccer is strong enough that he would still be successful.

As this question was posed, a great searing pride swept through me. I couldn't help but let a smile brighten my face. I knew my son was a good player, but this means others also see his talent for the game. As my smile beamed, something else starting forming in my mind. Technically he may be ready, but how about emotionally, mentally, and physically? Would he be able to handle playing with kids so much larger than him, with more experience, and on a team without any of his current teammates or classmates? Would his self-assuredness that he's been working so hard to achieve become oppressed? Would he be able to understand that being on a team a year further would probably mean he will no longer be the little star of the team, that he may not be the high scorer, that he may have difficulty stealing a ball? And if a kid 2 years his senior happens to kick him, will his body physically be able to handle the pain of someone larger and stronger? Does he need the experience of another year before moving into the big leagues?
This morning I spoke with my physical therapist and asked her what the pros and cons were physically. She said her biggest concern would be the fact that soccer players muscles become shorter from working out, and when going through a growth spurt could cause a lot of pain, as well as need for therapy to help lengthen them. Being that he would be working his body harder than the other players to physically keep up could cause him to stress his body parts, but that soccer is a good form of fitness and would also keep him in shape. So, her suggestion was to watch closely and make sure his body could physically handle it so he wouldn't end up hurt and unable to play at all.

After the soccer guy left, Jari had lots of questions. I saw a smile start to form in his eyes and work it's way to his lips. He looked at us and when I asked him if he knew what this all meant he clearly stated: I'm a good player so I can play with the big kids. The smile still plastered across his face. The rest of the night last night, he spoke of nothing else. He named all the kids on the under 11 team, he told us of each of their strengths and weaknesses, he talked about the coach. And when I tucked him in, I told him how very proud I am of him, my little soccer star. And when I asked if he wanted to move up, his response was an overwhelming "YES! if you and papa will please let me!" There was still a smile on his face as his head nestled into the pillow and I told him we would talk about it.

So, my son's dream is to become a soccer player. It's the dream of so many little boys, to be a professional sportsman. However, my son has a talent to back that dream. But what is best for him? What choice can I make to help him further that dream? What is mentally, physically, and emotionally best? This is another of those tough parenting decisions.

But I still have a smile plastered on my face too. His dream is my dream, and there's a chance that it will come true!


Jade said...

Yay Jari! Tera, I totally understand your concerns for his safety. It is one of the things I love about you, you play things through in your head when it comes to your boys.
I'm going to speak to you as a soccer player who was also "advanced" at a young age and even got soccer scholarships in college...let him play.
Part of being a good player is also learning and knowing your limits. This is something Jari might need a little coaching on, but can be taught. There are also many preventitive things that he, you, and the team can do to prevent injuries such as appropriate stretching, taking the sport seriously (while having fun) and playing safe.
While some of the other kids may be bigger than him, I bet Jari is fast! He looks it. He will learn to make his skills for in his favor.
Now of course I am not his mom, and I am speaking from a life long soccer players standpoint lol and someone who recently had ribs cracked in a soccer game (but she didn't score!!! lol)
I do know this though, the offer for him to move up had to have boosted his confidence and ego sooooo much! What a great feeling to be told you're good enough to skip the next step.
I know you're worried, but he'll be ok. He will learn ways to compensate for his size, and if things end up not working out, he can always go back down to the next age bracket right?

Hope to see more cute soccer pictures. I love watching kids play!

PS, I will be heading to Maui on Monday, so I'm wishing you a wonderful week! Aloha!

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

How exciting! And that's such a great photo of him in action, displaying his talent, his passion for the game. I completely understand where you are coming from with your concerns - I would feel the exact same way. But the fact that Jari wants to go for it speaks volumes. Congrats to all of you for the recognition and the opportunity - regardless of what you decide.

Really! said...

Just blog hopping and came upon yours. Very interesting and introspective! I just opened for business but your welcome to come on over for a laugh=)

Casdok said...

Wow. What a great oppourtunity, but i do understand your reservations. Heres to your dreams :)