(This is also on my little used running blog)
My daughter plays for two soccer teams: the local town and a travel team. She's been playing for the travel team for two years, now at the beginning of the third.
Some history of their accomplishments as it's important to what happened on Sunday, August 15th.
The team is, I believe, three years old. Maddie's first year she split time between goalie (her love) and field player. During that first Fall season, the team went, I believe, 1-8. The average score was approximately a 6-0 loss. I think they scored four or five goals all season. It was hard watching my daughter, and the other goalie, get pummeled game after game. They played in two tournaments, with results averaging the same, except for one- this one is important to the story to come. They went 0-3, having lost 8-1 and 17-0 on the first day. That first day, they not only had NO subs in the heat, they also only had 7 players instead of 8 for a full team. The 17-0 team, as you can guess, NEVER let up. The girls on the other team were laughing, as were the parents, pushing their daughters to score more. The girls were, obviously, down for a few minutes, but came around fast, and went back to laughing and giggling. They were only 9 at the time. The 8-1 game, the coach pulled a player after the first half, then restricted his team to a certain number of passes, even then only a couple girls were allowed to shoot. At one point, his girls started laughing. He did not like it at all. He laid into them and told them if they laughed again, they were done for the tournament. he pointed out to them that we were playing down one player and had not given up no matter the score.
We trust the process- it's not about wins, it's about player development.
Then came the Spring season- tournaments and the state cup games. For the state cup, they only had 7 players- yup, for each of the three games, played on separate weekends, they were down a player. They only had two subs all season at the most, but had a couple players leave the team over the winter. Each of those games, the opposing team played one player down for the second half. My daughter's coach taught them to play the game as two halves. They lost each of the first halves, but tied or won the second half of each game going by this philosophy- even with the other team having subs. They played with hear, they played with courage. And man, was their conditioning AWESOME! By the Spring season, Maddie was also their only goalie. Not because the other goalie left, but because the coaches considered her their best option.
They had one tournament cancelled because of a lack of players, and another where they did well: they went 1-1-1! They were so excited- they played extremely well together, and seemed to have turned a corner as a team.
Trust the process, their 9 and it's not about the wins, it's about player development.
Until the Fall season started last year. The preseason tournament was the same as the year before- going 0-3 and having none of the games be even slightly competitive. The second tournament was another 1-1-1 and they were a win away- the tie, if it'd been a win, they would've made it to the finals! The girls were disappointed they didn't make it, but they were so giddy about playing well together and having fun (I tell Maddie before every game, "Play hard, have fun" and always will.)
Trust the process. They're growing. It's not about wins, it's about player development. They're improving, we can see it.
The season was the same as last year's Fall. They were 1-8 and got blown out in most of the game. The average score was about 6-1, which was an improvement on last year, though at a lower level within their league (4/5 instead of 3/5). Maddie was still the only goalie, and there were times we wanted her pulled as some games she was facing 25-30+ shots a game. This was when we really realized who good she was becoming. When you have an opposing coach who, after an 8-0 drubbing, makes a point to come up and talk to us about how good she is, and when you have players tell her, and parents of other teams, you realize how good she is. We really didn't know- we're not soccer people- well, we weren't at the time, but have quickly become that.
That Fall 2015 she also began to take the losses harder, often teary eyed after when she got back to the car. It was hard to watch. We talked about the good things, what she did well, never focusing on the results. She's a fighter, always has been, always will be. She still loves being a keeper, still wants to be the best.
Trust the process. Wins don't matter, player development does. They're 10.
The winter came and went, many girls missing many practices for other sports, which the coach is OK with- winter and Spring are times to grow athletically, participate in other sports. Maddie tried Girls on the Run, Basketball, Teeball, Softball, even played a couple Baseball games for her older brother's team (tiny but mighty got a couple hits in her few game career :) ).
Now for the Spring. My wife and I are talking about whether we want her to continue with her travel team. We sign her back up for the town team (she took a year off from them) as we wanted her playing and practicing with them when she could since they'll be playing together in MS and HS, and the girl's HS program has a tradition of excellence.
We know to trust the process, but it's been hard watching her get pummeled; watching her punts go right at her teammates only to have them not even field it and have the other team come right back at her on breakaway after breakaway- one, two, three on just Maddie over and over. We were concerned for her safety. We got her a concussion headband because of her fearlessness; because of how she'll charge out at just the right moment and pounce on the ball with opponents barreling in.
Trust the process.
Spring tournaments before the State Cup season starts. We look at the rankings of teams they're going to play (yes, they start ranking them regionally, state and nationally at this age). The teams they're playing are ranked higher than them in both tournaments, some by A LOT. When your team is ranked in the thousands nationally and you're facing teams in the top 200, you worry.
Trust. It's a process.
Both tournaments went the same...but not the same as in the past. BOTH tournaments, the girls showed A TON of growth. BOTH tournaments they went into the third game at 2-0 and playing for a shot at the finals! Both times, they played their hearts out, both times they fell short by 1 and 2 goals. The process is showing growth. The coaches talk about how proud they are of them, how much they've grown, how much fight they've shown. The second tournament, they were down 2-1 with a few seconds left when the opponent broke away from their side down field towards Maddie. It didn't matter overall to the score, this was the last of the game. But it mattered to them. The three closest girls (and they weren't that close) charged down field to stop their opponent and Maddie, realizing this was it, charged from her goalie position right away. Maddie met her opponent outside of the goalie area and performed a perfect slide tackle, stopping her opponent, getting the ball away and passing it off to her teammates who'd charged in. They ended up getting a shot at tying the game, but fell short by just a couple feet to end the game.
It was amazing to watch. This was the hardest loss they'd had so far, even harder than the 17-0 nothing game.
Unfortunately the schedule for the state cup games came out. These girls who showed so much promise, who'd grown so much got screwed by the people who schedule the state cup. As I said above, they played in tier 4/5, even then their coach had to fight to get them to 4/5 as they were originally slated for the bottom 5/5 group. The state cup schedulers PUT THEM IN THE TOP GROUP! They were going to be playing three games against TIER 1 TEAMS! As you can imagine we were all pissed- parents, coaches, overall team organizers. And, as you can imaging, NONE of the games were competitive. Each game went to 6-0 quickly, and the other coaches wouldn't let their teams shoot at that point unless we scored (I think they scored one goal) then they could score to get a 6 goal lead since that's the max that would count in the goal differential. It was heartbreaking. The girls were not happy, obviously. They did have one tournament left, and it went nothing like the previous ones in the beginning of the season. They were placed in a group with top tier and tier 2 teams and got pummeled- except for one game. The most competitive game they played was against a team right around 100 in the country (compared to their 1500 or so). This game ended in a 4-1 loss, but Maddie was on fire. She made save after save, the parents of the other team in awe of her play (proud parent moments continue...).
Trust the process.
The 2016 Fall brings new age grouping- by birth year rather than July to July. teams were split in half. We lucked out, we "only" lost two players, but we miss them greatly already. But we gained three girls who fit right in.
Three weeks ago we found out they were playing in a tournament on short notice as the team organizer asked us to join in. We did. My wife and I, honestly, were expecting more of the same losing because of the short notice, and knowing they were teams we hadn't beaten before.
But trust the process.
The first game found them down 3-1 early, but they fought hard, scoring two goals late to tie 3-3. The team now has another goalie. For the first time in a year and a half, my daughter played half in goal, and the second half on the field as a sub. She did ok :) The next game they dominated. They seemed to do everything right, they played great, they played with fire. They won 4-0! Mads was in goal the entire game because of the match up of the new goalie and a specific player on the other team we needed her to defend.
The next game is the main reason for this long post. When we saw the other team take the field, it brought back all these memories that the parents talked about of the past 2-3 years. The other team was playing with no subs, and short a player. Our coach offered them our new goalie, but their coach said no. The coach remembers what it's like playing a player down. Our girls remembered, too, especially Maddie. At 1-0-1 at this point, we needed a shut out win in order for a chance to win the tournament. After going up 6-0, our team, for once, took a player off the field, then took Maddie out of goal (I don't think the other team got a shot on goal), and our girls were given increasingly difficult passing and shooting options. Maddie was put in as the only forward, with four midfielder and two defenders (plus the goalie). The players were not allowed to shoot unless they crossed the ball in with their left foot. Maddie had a couple chances in front of the goal, but she would quickly get two defenders on her to prevent her from getting a shot off. As you can guess, playing primarily in goal, Maddie has NEVER scored a goal on any team at any level. The parents and I thought it seemed like he set it up so she could finally score, and we really wanted her too. This is important to the story. So, the girls were given even more restrictions- they now had to, after brining it up, pass it back to a defender, who had to pass it to the other defender, then up for a cross to try to get it to Maddie. She never did score, and they game ended 6-0, still with no shots on goal. We felt for the other team. We knew what it was like, our girls new what it was like.
It turns out, the team they were tied with for first won their game 5-0. Maddie's team WON THE TOURNAMENT by a 1 goal differential! They are champs! They did it! It was amazing. They were dancing after they found out, hugging, jumping up and down laughing, like 11 year old girls should. We're so proud of them and how they played. They showed a lot in terms of on field skill, communication, passing, shooting, dribbling, making moves, decision making, etc.
Trust the process.
We talked with Maddie after the game, thinking she'd be excited about the chances she had, and maybe disappointed in not scoring.
Remember all those games mentioned above? The heartaches, the many times they were trampled, the many times they played down a player or with no subs?
Maddie said, "I didn't want to score. It wouldn't be right. It wouldn't have felt right to score on a team down a player, as tired as they were. I want to score my first goal when it's even, not like that." As we talked more about what she said, she remembered all those games, all those times the other teams never let up on them.
Trust the process. They're always learning, about life, about soccer. Trust.