End of an Era

Later this month I will watch my oldest son’s last soccer game of his career.  From a “career” standpoint, it wasn’t all that long, wasn’t all that glorious, wasn’t noteworthy to anyone but some family and friends, and that day will likely come and go with little fanfare. But this Mom will be one sad lady. If I were to brood about it too much right now, the tears would come.

We didn’t set out to have soccer be Riley’s “thing.” It was just a sport to do, a reason to get out of the house and get him involved with something.  The first time we took him to the city league at age 4, he cried on the field.  We went home.  The following spring we finally wised up and found out the details of the soccer that was going on across the street from our house. Cabrini Recreational Soccer. Cue the Star Wars theme music. When we first started, it was free–and we got a t-shirt, bonus! It wasn’t long before Riley was 7 and we knew we had a Cristiano Ronaldo on our hands.  It just wasn’t fair that he was playing on the 7/8 year old team, making the other kids look silly. He ended up playing on the 9/10 team and eventually he started travel soccer at age 9. He was athletic, had speed, and handled the soccer ball much better than almost every other kid on the the field.  At the time, we were sharpening our pencils, we knew the contracts for FIFA would be rolling in from every European powerhouse team 🙂  Ah, the dream of every young, mildly skilled, adolescent kid’s parents.

Fast forward 10 years to my 17 year old, high school senior, Varsity team soccer player.  We’ve spent hundreds of hours on the soccer field watching him play, even more in the car driving to training, games, and tournaments. The monetary total?  Off the top of my head estimate would be $25k.  Nearly 10 years of travel soccer costs, futsal, camps, technical training, uniforms, hotel stays, gas, beer (at the tournaments…let’s be real people), eating out, and Slurpees (at least $1k right there, you’re welcome 7-11).  And don’t get me started on the cleats.  2 pair of cleats a year, plus indoor shoes, plus turf shoes.  We can put shoes on three whole 11v11 teams with the number of pairs of soccer footwear we have bought for Riley. Didn’t seem so bad in monthly installments, but when you total it up…whew, that’s a lot of money.  We are blessed to have been able to do all this for him.

Riley is a good, solid, soccer player. Fantastic? No. Better than some? Yes. Fun to watch?  For sure. Mom-colored opinion of his play? Amazing, astonishing and simply unparalleled in skill 😉 He struggled with always being smaller than his similar aged teammates.  Not hitting puberty and the ensuing growth spurt until 16 made it difficult for him to compete physically. But he did his best (usually). And even on his worst days, I still love watching him play. If you’ve ever participated in a kid vs. parent athletic contest, you’ve experienced what I will term “Complete and Utter Incapability of Keeping up with your Child in a Sporting Endeavor that Requires Running.” Soccer is hard (regardless of what you football naysayers will spout).  Although if you’ve ever attended a soccer game, you will very clearly hear numerous parents yelling from the stands various ways their child/the team could be doing better. Because everything looks easier from the bleachers. Well, Mom and Dad, put some cleats on and you come out here and show me just how easy it is. I include myself in this category. In a roundabout way of getting to my point, Riley may not be Ronaldo, but he’s talented in a way I’ve grown to truly appreciate. And my goodness, I will truly miss it when he’s done.

He’s made friends, I’ve made friends, I’ve made friends with his friends. I’ve laughed and cried and smiled on the sidelines, I’ve frozen my butt off and been sunburned more than once.  Brendan managed his travel teams over the years, and I took the helm on managing his high school team, while Brendan announces home games in the booth.  It sometimes feels we’ve put in more time than he has. But that’s what parents do. And not because we love soccer. But because we love Riley. That’s what parents do. I wouldn’t trade a second.  But I am SOOOO happy he quit t-ball after 1 season.

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