Sweetboy’s soccer team made it to the playoffs this weekend. It was quite an accomplishment. Even the coaches (whom we think are the bomb diggety) acknowledged that it was like they had their very own “Bad News Bears” team!
We were doubly excited for this opportunity because, as many of you know, Sweetboy is on the Autism Spectrum. And while this doesn’t mean much of anything to us in terms of his abilities, it does mean that he isn’t comfortable participating in group sport activities with typical children. Weekly practices and weekend games are a struggle for this child who prefers the consistent environment of our safe and predictable four walls.
But, Sweetman and I decided about 3 years ago, that this was one sport that we would encourage him to be a part of. We wanted to give him opportunities to interact with his world in ways that would prepare him for the life he will someday have to live outside of our four walls. We contacted the local recreational soccer organization and laid out our wishes and concerns to them. They were welcoming and accepted the challenge to let him just be him and be a part of the group. We were (and are) so grateful.
Now, this child? He is no go-getter. We’re 99.9% certain that he doesn’t have an aggressive bone in his body. When Coach says “hustle”, he hears “meander”. His practice runs, dribbling the ball up and down the field each week, resembled erratic muscle spasms far more than intentional directing of the ball. But, each year, this quirky kid of ours has been able to practice being one part of a whole team. And to us? Well, that’s all that matters, to be quite honest.
But this year? This year’s experience was spectacular.
For him and for us.
And not because we made it to the Championship game.
No. It was because any time our son’s foot even remotely looked like it was going to touch the ball, he had parents on the sidelines cheering him on wildly. And when he actually attempted to kick the ball and his foot connected? You could feel the encouragement literally carrying him along. And he felt it. And he felt like he was part of something bigger than him. And he felt competent, whether he was or he wasn’t. Don’t we all just long to feel like we can accomplish something?
So, this morning, as we headed for the playoffs against a team they had lost to twice before (and lost big), Sweetboy had some words of wisdom to share:
“They’re just gonna beat us, today.”
And I took this golden opportunity for the teachable moment that it was. I asked him what Coach would think of his attitude? He acknowledged she wouldn’t like it one bit.
“But it is true. They will beat us. Probably 4 to 0 or 7 to 2 or something like that.” (And these were the exact scores of the other games against this team, because we are wildly creative in our predictions around here.)
So, I told him that this story had not been written yet. That he had the chance to write a new ending to the story of this game today.
And Sweetgirl piped up from next to him, “Yeah, write the new story with your feet.”
And he did!
They didn’t win. But they came dern close.
5 to 4!
And our Sweetboy was On Fire today. Everyone noticed it. And everyone commented on it.
And even though his team ended up in second place, he felt like he was in first.
Because he wrote it so with his feet.
And that couldn’t fill us with more joy.