We host an annual Super Bowl party because I love football and throwing parties, but the unmentioned reason is because I yell at the TV. It's awful, I don't know what to say other than my dad does it too, but when you get used to yelling while watching games, it's hard to turn that feature off. It's especially hard when you're watching your young child play a sport, which I would have thought would be the easier time to just enjoy the game, but really, when they are older and are actually playing and have serious refs, it's much easier to sit back and watch. Rocket's soccer games look more like a rugby match, and they are only overseen by the coaches. Which means when a player on the other team starts straight-arming opponents, knocking them down while looking for approval from his family on the sidelines, it's a little hard not to yell.
Clover's game was easy to stay quiet, even as the other team dominated them. It was easy to sit back and watch the girls play. The girls are at an age where they know what they're doing, they're trying to be fair, refs were on plays that weren't, Clover's team looked like they were playing the sport for the first time. Before the game began, Clover volunteered to be goalie. I held my breath. They'd done zero goalie training this season and Clover had just moved up an age division from a younger group where the rules were much looser. Now goalies need to respect the lines, do proper kicks, and most harrowing, defend penalty kicks. Just minutes into the game, under some confusion, a teammate picked up the ball (she was going to do the goal kick and didn't realize it was live), prompting a penalty kick. All of the girls had to move back behind the lines, while one opponent moved forward about 10 feet to take the kick. Clover, confused, was directed to the goal line. Everyone was quiet, with only the two girls on stage. The whistle blew, the girl kicked the ball cleanly into the corner. Or so it seemed. She'd moved before the whistle, forcing a rekick. Once again: boom, boom, boom. Another goal, practically in exactly the same spot. It was only one goal, but it felt like two. Clover hunched her shoulders and started to cry. Her teammates tried to console her, the opponents' parents cheered her, but I still couldn't breathe because if I did, the real tears would begin for me too. This is the hard part of being a spectator.
My friend said last season that she wished she could be seven again, just for that soccer game, so she could go in to dominate the hell out of it.
I know exactly how Clover felt because the same thing happened to me in fifth grade. I was on a good soccer team, so good that there were rarely goals kicked against me as goalie. One day, Jody, our best player, a girl so tough that she could have easily beaten the boys, shoved an opponent, forcing a penalty kick. I remember thinking that Jody should have had to defend the shot since it was her fault that I was in this mess. But there I was, with everyone watching as the opponent charged the ball. I moved to my right, but not enough because the ball smacked the ends of my fingers and deflected into the goal. My hand stung and I cried, embarrassed that I'd let my team down. My friend Julie came over to tell me that it wasn't my fault. I don't remember crying during a game ever again.
After the game, we talked about it with Clover and commended her for being brave enough to be the first goalie. At practice, her coach told her he tried to be a goalie when he was young, only to have seven goals scored against him in his first game. She recovered soon enough, but the question is whether or not she'll ask to be goalie again. I want her to overcome any fears and try it again, but at the same time, it's hell to watch from the sidelines. For now, I'm staying quiet.