Monday, May 14, 2007

The Ringer

On Saturday I had my first encounter with a staple of child sports.

Simply put, I saw a ringer.

The team Eli 5.9 played against on Saturday was a bizarre combination: two ringers and eight other kids who ran around in circles. It looked a pre-school version of a Busby Berkeley number.
The fix was in.

Their star was a head taller than anyone else on the field. It doesn't sound like much to say that he was six years old instead of five, but it's actually a huge difference at that age in terms of coordination and speed.

Oh, and strength. He could have snapped any of our kids in half like a pretzel stick.

Remember, this is a league where they don't keep score. Which is why, I guess, their coach had at least one kid standing in their goal mouth at all times to play defense--so that goals that weren't going to be counted couldn't be scored.

Of course, since the kid (part of "the eight")was running around in circles, he was not totally effective.

What happened after a while, though, was very interesting. As it turns out, even five-year-olds have a natural disinclination to getting their asses kicked. So after Pele Jr. scored three goals in the first ten minutes and was so dominant that it was painful to watch, a funny thing happened.

Eli and his teammates stopped him.

I didn't see the coach give them any instructions--not that they could have followed them, anyway--but every time Pele got the ball, there were three kids around him. Isabella, who was over a foot shorter and half as fast, got in his way, put her head down, and kicked the ball clear.

Pele was a marked man.

It never occurred to me until that moment that five-year-olds could raise their level of play, but that's exactly what they did. Once they realized that they were getting embarrassed--and they figured it out on their own, because we sure didn't tell them--they played their skinny little asses off.

Eli had a nifty left-footed shot that barely went wide. He ran into crowds to clear the ball, which he's never done before.

This week we had one fifteen minute session where I explained how to take the proper angle to the ball. I don't know much about soccer, but I understand geometry, and I knew that a semi-circle was not an efficient path to intercept a moving object. So I showed him, he understood in about five minutes, and his coach commented today on how quickly he was getting to loose balls.

I hear the Ivory Coast needs a coach for the national team. I'm just waiting for the call.

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