The Tournament: Part OneWe left the house on Friday at 2 p.m. We got home last night at 9:20 p.m. Our air conditioning upstairs had broken, and it was 90 degrees upstairs.
That was all okay.
This was Eli 14.1s first tournament after knowing that he was going to try out for Tier I teams in Michigan in March. Jokingly, he calls it "The March To March", but I know that for all his joking, he wants to make one of those teams very, very much.
We did a workout last Wednesday (he's decided that he still needs to do hard off-ice workouts during the season, and I think he's right). He's been doing a new warmup by a coach named Maria Mountain (who is totally fantastic), and after he warmed up, he said "Man, my hips and legs feel GREAT. So loose. I really want to jump."
He always does four standing broad jumps after he stretches and skips rope, so I set up the tape measure. His PR is 8'6". That is a long, long jump for a kid who just turned fourteen.
I jumped 7'2". For an old fart, not terrible.
He took his first jump. 8'4". "Oh, it is ON," he said. "I've never felt this good before."
Second jump. 8'6". "Seriously, I can go farther," he said. "I've got plenty left."
A friend of his and his dad wandered upstairs and asked what we were doing, so I explained. Eli talked to his friend and stretched a bit. They were watching when he stepped up to jump for the third time.
He took off, and I mean took off. He landed and put his arms in the air, with a huge smile on his face. "That was huge!" he said.
He was right. 8'9".
I can't even really explain how utterly insane that distance is, but it is off the charts. Way off the charts.
There's something else, too, and I don't think I've ever mentioned this before. There's a kind of joy when he jumps, a kind of happiness he feels when he's soaring through the air. There's nothing on earth like seeing that big smile on his face.
There are many kinds of happiness, and many degrees. It's possible to be happy with many things between you and your happiness. If you're very, very lucky, though, at some point in your life you will feel the kind of happiness where there is nothing, not one single thing, between you and that feeling.
That's how Eli feels when he jumps.
"I feel so good going into this tournament," he said after the workout. "I feel strong."
This was what's known as a "leveling" tournament, where all the teams in the state play each other so that they can be sorted into divisions. For Eli's team, there were only two possibilities: "A" and "B".
The only thing I was worried about was winning at least one of the four games so that there was no chance they could be put into B division. If they could go 2-2, I'd be thrilled. Just have no one get hurt, get into "A", and go home.
This was going to be a different tournament for Eli. There's another goalie on the team (he's also very good), but he was hurt, so for now, every game was Eli's.