Graceful started soccer camp today. For five evenings this week, she'll learn basic soccer skills and play a real whole lot and then come home tired and ready for bed. The camp is World Cup themed, with the players divided into teams of various nationalities. Graceful plays for Spain.
Graceful has been eagerly anticipating this camp for a couple of months now and was really excited. She dressed with care: yellow soccer shorts and a cheery yellow shirt with a big sunflower on the front. I could tell she was also a little nervous beforehand; she's never played soccer or been to a sports camp before, so she didn't know what to expect and she knew most of the other players would be more skilled than her. Unfortunately, this case of nerves led to a new tic that started right around 5:20 -- jerking her head -- but I'm hoping it will be short-lived and not one we'll be living with for the next month.
The parking lot at soccer camp was a veritable minivan and SUV dealership. If I had known that poor fuel economy was a requirement for us soccer parents, I would have left the car at home and driven our van. Many of the vehicles had some sort of soccer sticker on the back bumper. We failed in that department too, as our vehicles are sticker-free.
While there were plenty of normal parents like me, there were definitely those who are hard-core athletes. I saw one mother, dressed in her tennis gear, warming her kid up and giving him lots of advice on being competitive and making the other kids look like the losers they are. Hell, I only told Graceful to stay hydrated and to do her best. Clearly I'm falling down on the job of being a soccer mom.
There were at least 200 kids at camp. Some are newbies like Graceful, but many are experienced players with at least one season of playing under their belts (or, under their Umbro waistbands, as it were). This latter group wore their old jerseys and scuffed cleats with pride.
The staff was impressive -- most of the coaches are collegiate soccer players. The coach of the University of Virginia women's soccer team, as well as many of his players, were there too. You could tell the kids idolized the college students. I, however, was busy missing the trimmer and fitter body of my youth.
I arrived for pick-up early so that I could catch some of the scrimmages. Graceful's yellow shorts made it very easy to find her. She had finished playing and was on the sidelines, bent over and looking at something. She had recruited a couple of other children and they were also bending over, looking at the ground. When I questioned her about it later, she said the fields -- soggy from yesterday's storms -- are full of tiny frogs. She and some of the other kids were relocating frogs from the middle of the field to the side so that no amphibians would be harmed. My heart swelled with love and pride over my little animal activist.
And that is the one area in which all soccer parents and I are alike and in which I will not fail: I puffy heart my soccer player (and her sister).