Sunday, May 29, 2011

Onward and Upward

Curt plays UPWARD soccer.

I hadn't heard of it until we moved to Tyler (the Last Great Place).

But then he wanted to play soccer. So I signed him up, in a DIFFERENT league, the spring semester of his  first grade year. Because that's when most kids start sports, right?


His team had probably been playing since they were in utero. Or at least since they could walk. And that was great.

For them.

He and his coach did not speak the same primary language. Or even close. Nor did he and his teammates.

During the first game, the coach put Curt in at forward. Within 30 seconds, he'd curled into fetal position on the field and had to be carried off.

Coach tried again in the last two minutes. Same thing.

The season progressed. Curt rose to the occasion as far as his abilities allowed. He RARELY played during games. Maybe 5 minutes a game. And THAT was NOT acceptable. I'm really glad the other kids on his team were accomplished athletes at age 7. But I'd expected that Curt would be nurtured and taught.

It didn't happen.

He played with that team again the next semester. Fall soccer of his second grade year. His team was a winning team, which resulted in less and less playing time for the so-called "weak link" on the team (yes, someone translated the Spanish for me!) The final straw came in one of the last games of the season. For the first time, his team was losing. And not just LOSING, but being decimated. I believe the score was 12-1. Curt hadn't played yet. Resting on their laurels, the rest of the team had played poorly. And STILL the coach didn't put Curt into the game. We'd had it.

Curt played the last two minutes of the game. The team lost. But I knew he'd NEVER go back to that team.

Let me just say, in interest of journalist fairness, Luke plays for the same league and has for the past several years. With the same coach, with the same kids. And it's been a wonderful experience.

Had Curt not been assigned to that team, things may have been different.

But second semester of his second grade year, Curt switched to UPWARD soccer.

And his sport's experience has been so different.

Upward soccer emphasizes Christianity. Team work. Sportsmanship.

After each practice and during each game, there is prayer and a Bible verse to learn and memorize. Each team member plays an equal amount of time per game. We learn to cheer for the other teams' successes. And they defer to ours. Coaches teach skills, celebrate fun and guarantee each child have a good experience while being active, learning how to be a team member and being themselves.

Pele probably didn't play Upward soccer. David Beckham didn't play Upward soccer. But for the percentage of children who do not get college scholarships and whose parents value fun and participation, Upward is perfect. Beyond perfect. Curt has had the best coaches. He's left each game (ok, MOST games) happy and rewarded. He's proud of his orange uniform.

And most of all, he's learning what third graders REALLY need to get out of organized sports: activity, fun and sportsmanship.

Onward and Upward.

1 comment:

  1. Amy I agree with everything you wrote. We have had the same experience. With Daniels medical issues he was left behind, on the side lines and on the bench in the other leagues. It was heartbreaking and he started getting so discouraged. His second grade year he was so sick he had to have his spleen and gallbladder removed. He still wanted to play basketball. The other league, they could care less. That's when we found Upward. Daniel was told"No problem Buddy". He could not physically go thru the evaluation. One very special person walked him thru the stations, let him do what he could, and encouraged him like never before. He had to have his surgery in houston. It was November, he was assigned a team, hospitalized, in so much pain and scared. He received a special get well card and message at the hospital, from a coach he'd never met. He was told he was being prayed for by his team who he had never met and don't worry about practice. They'd catch him up as soon as he could join them. It was a great season. When Daniel made his first basket in a game, during the last game, his coach was jumping up and down screaming for joy and crying.