Our son has played soccer since he was three years old. Zane's an only child; team sports offered him an opportunity to acquire the socialization skills he needed. Both of my brother's boys played soccer, and they seemed to enjoy it. However, our reasoning at the time was one of self-preservation; our child was wearing us out. Zane is in constant motion, and soccer offered him the opportunity to get some of that energy out of his system without warping the Time-Space Continuum.
Soccer at age three looks pretty much like a bunch of cats all chasing the same mouse; lots of running, and occasionally someone accidentally hits the ball. Zane loved it, so we continued to sign him up with the same league. It didn't cost very much. All the boys got along, and after playing together for so many years, they were becoming a well-oiled machine. However, during the past year we started noticing that Zane's team was winning games 20-1, 18-0, etc. That's pretty bad, even for a children's recreational soccer league.
Zane wasn't interested in learning anything new; he just wanted to play the same kind of soccer he'd always played. He scored so many goals that he seemed a bit cocky, and he started to mentally wander off during games. Zane knows how much I love to watch him play, especially during the past year, but it didn't seem to matter. He was in a rut. Larry and I have learned from experience that when Zane's behavior deteriorates, it means that things are too easy for him. If it was too easy, it wasn't interesting. It was time for us to try something different. The boy needed a challenge.
Time to move on to what is known as "competitive" soccer. The big leagues.
The cost to play went up, of course. But I've come to realize that when it comes to children's sports, you get what you pay for. Where we had been playing on what had been a parking lot with scraggly bits of grass growing over it, now there are thick fields of grass, carefully tended and cared for. And Zane received two practice jerseys in addition to his game kit. He now has a coach who is paid, who writes up lesson plans before every practice, and who is an extremely patient young man to take on a group of seven year olds. A group of seven year olds who were all used to being the star, the ones who scored all the goals for their team, the ones whose parents felt that their boys needed a challenge.
Zane is now learning to pay attention, because if he doesn't, he gets to do toe touches. He has met an entirely new group of kids, and his natural extrovert has come out. Zane is learning new skills faster than I ever thought he would. I can already see my son's skills blossoming. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, but the main thing I want for my son is that he love what he does. You can see it in his face every time he is out on the field; he is having fun.
And that is worth everything.