Coach D scanned the sidelines, weighing his options. He could see Number 5 taking off her cleats, Number 11 sobbing in his mom’s lap and Number 7 picking some forgotten dandelions. He had little choice but to approach my daughter, who was panting like a Siberian Husky on a hot July day.
“Viv, can you go on again?” he asked.
Still guzzling water, Vivian managed a nod and tossed the bottle to the ground. In a seemingly-practiced Mia Hamm move, she yanked up her socks and jogged onto the field.
“Ball in,” said the ref. And then they were at it: six Blue Whales battling six Red Dragons. Like the team names imply, the contest was legendary in its mythology, at least in the eyes of five-year-olds. They swarmed the soccer ball, following it like it was the Holy Grail.
Coaches ran alongside the pack, Blackfoot tribesmen herding bison toward a buffalo jump. It was a mash of hot-dog sized cleats. In this league, shin guards were a requirement for a reason. The kids kicked with wild abandon. Feet were everywhere.
Every now and again, one of the Lilliputians kicked the ball free of the masses and managed to head in the right direction.
This time, it was Vivian.
She didn’t seek a coach’s instruction. She didn’t look for a wave from her father. She didn’t as much glance to the sidelines to see her twin brother sobbing in his mother’s lap. She had eyes for the ball and the goal. She dodged opponents and her own teammates, controlling the ball with enviable precision.
The Blue Whales’ goalie stepped up, surprisingly aware that an enemy had invaded his territory. Vivian began the final part of her assault, full throttle toward the goal, the white number nine on her jersey a blur. When she was metres from the net, she let loose a perfectly timed kick. The ball sailed off her instep, past the goalie and over the line. It was Vivian’s first goal.
From the sidelines, her twin brother, William, witnessed the entire highlight reel. Moments after the ball sailed into the net, he swallowed his sobs, sprinted onto the field and embraced his sister. The team followed. So did the coaches.
The only time these five-year-olds ran faster was when the referee said, “Snack time.”
—Ironic Mom (aka Leanne)