Plunged Into the World of Soccer


In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m very new to the soccer scene. As friends, family and coworkers can all attest I swore off following the sport long ago. That’s not to say I have ever held a disdain or dislike for the sport. Quite the opposite in fact.

Livestrong Sporting Park in September. (Photo Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE)

While I never played growing up in Minnesota – tackle football was my fall sport of choice – I played in an intramural indoor league during my time at Iowa State and participated in quite a few intramural outdoor games after transferring to Creighton.

Since college, my stance on soccer has always been that it is a terrific sport to play but a terrible sport to follow.

That all changed this spring when my oldest son Justin decided he wanted to play soccer. Always willing to encourage my kids, I signed him up without a moment’s hesitation. Little did I know at the time that he would take to the sport so thoroughly. He’s always liked playing basketball and baseball but it was almost immediately apparent the he loved soccer. So much so, in fact, that he was in tears following his team’s final game because he didn’t want to wait until the next season to play again.

Thankfully his coach suggested that I sign him up for the indoor summer league he put together. Over the summer, week after week, Justin’s confidence and love for soccer grew by leaps and bounds. I couldn’t help but notice that in watching him enjoy it so much I was starting to appreciate it as a spectator more and more. The summer ended and by this point it was a forgone conclusion that I would sign him up for the fall outdoor league.

He had done well in the indoor games and the smaller playing surface and less structured, fast paced style seemed to help his comfort level. He started to develop a sense of where he should be, where he should go and – perhaps most importantly – he stopped thinking so much about what he should do and started to do things on instinct.

Moving back outside for the fall season I had some trepidation. While Justin loved his outdoor games during the spring season, they were very hard for me to watch. He seemed so hesitant and unsure of himself and – since he had never played before – he wasn’t very skilled. I felt equally out of place because I didn’t know much about the sport and that made it difficult for me when it came to helping him develop and learn. In the eight games they played in the spring, he scored just one goal and that came in the first game of the season.

I shouldn’t have been worried. While you could still see the gears turning in his head at various points during the fall games, it was clear that his indoor experience over the summer had dramatically improved his instincts and skill level.

The first game of his fall season was very similar to those from the spring. The second game he played better and seemed more natural. By the third game, he started to look like an 8-year old soccer player instead of an 8-year old playing soccer. About this time he also got on a roll scoring goals. He finished the season with six in his last six games and more than a few nice passes to his teammates as well.

His love for the sport has continued to grow, as has his determination to get better. While I’m thrilled that he’s found an activity that he truly loves, watching him work so hard to improve is what makes me most proud as a father. All of his hard work has come from within. It’s been his own motivation and desire that have pushed him to improve, and honestly it’s been amazing to watch. I help him as much as I can and guide him, but mostly I just kick the ball around and help him run drills that he’s done in practices with his coach.

Much to his little brother’s dismay, Justin occasionally looks for soccer on TV to watch instead of cartoons, and if you’re a parent you know how significant that is. When the fall season ended he picked up with not one but two indoor leagues that will carry him through the winter months and he couldn’t be happier. He’s also elected to play basketball again which I’m happy about as it provides him a little variety in his athletic development.

I tell you all of the above because I think it is important to share with you where I’m coming from as it relates to writing about Sporting Kansas City, the Missouri Comets and soccer in general as we move forward here on KC Kingdom. I am, for all practical purposes, a complete “noob” to the soccer community and I’m sure my soccer based writing and coverage will reflect that, at least for a while. That said, my relative lack of experience with the sport won’t keep me from covering our local teams.

I am the father of an 8-year old soccer player, and through his passion I have to admit that I’ve become a soccer fan.