Sports start with a smile.
Do you remember?
Think back. Was it basketball or softball? Did you score a goal or catch a touchdown?
I wonder what my son and his six teammates will recall when they reflect on their first team experience. Will they remember the tears or the falls or the goals or the results?
It was amazing to watch 4- and 5-year-old boys learn so much in a 10-game soccer season. They learned to dribble, they learned to protect their goal, they learned teamwork, they learned to pick themselves up when they fell and to try again.
They also learned how to have fun.
I lost count of the wins and losses and the goals each player scored. Even though I was on the field keeping time for nine of the games, those things didn’t matter. Instead, I savored the smiles on their faces and watched the joy and innocence with which they poked at trash cans, picked grass from the field and threw it at each other, and spun in circles in between bursts of action.
I will remember the high fives and encouragement all of the coaches gave to all of the players in victory and in defeat. I will remember the lessons of sportsmanship, from slapping hands at the end of each game to players helping each other up after falls.
The adults realized we were still years away from discovering whether we had a David Beckham or Landon Donovan in our midst, so the focus was on making sure the kids had the best possible time.
I know my son did. He asked each week when his team, “The Blues,” was playing again. He looked forward to seeing his new friends and working together to score and to prevent goals, even if he and his teammates did it unknowingly.
I don’t know how they learned so much so fast. It certainly wasn’t the coaching. We tried our best, but truth be told we did what we could and tried to show all of our kids a little about the game and tried to keep it fun.
The kids had such a good time they made me smile. They made me proud of their hustle. They surprised me with their potential. They made me laugh watching their reactions. I will forever remember Caleb running to the sidelines and giving five to family members and friends on the sideline and my son raising his arm after scoring a goal. Both looked like seasoned professionals who had scored plenty of goals to hone their scoring celebrations.
But they were having fun. They weren’t trying to embarrass anyone or trying to draw attention to themselves. Thank you Austin, Caleb, Jay, Jullian, Paul, Tyree, and Zachary. You brought smiles to my face every game and made me remember sports are more than just wins and losses. They are about creating memories, building friendships, gaining confidence, and having fun.
On a day we give thanks for so many things — bravery, honesty, compassion, generosity — and for the people in our lives, let’s give thanks to all of the kids who make us smile and brighten our days. Let’s make sure we do all we can to ensure they have fun in everything they do.
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Dispatch. You can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.