It was on a bitterly cold and foggy Sunday morning that my son had his first soccer match. Of course, the crazy-about-soccer dad had to travel out of town that very morning, so it was down to lazy ol’ me to kit up an overly excited ten-year-old at 8 in the morning and head out in the freezing outdoors! Sigh! Not at all the ‘sporty’ kinds, never in my wildest dreams, imagined I’d be donning the cap of a ‘soccer mom’ (of sorts). So why make a fuss about it? After all, I am not the first and definitely not the last mom to take her kid to soccer practices, or matches; or shout myself hoarse at every game. Or soothe frayed nerves (and scraped knees) after a game lost or cry tears or joy at a goal scored!
So then why the fuss? (if you can call it that) Simply because I’d never thought that my gifted son, not a natural athlete by any means, would take to a sport. Not a team sport, anyway. (for those of you who understand giftedness, would know where I am coming from). Not to say that there are no ‘gifted’ athletes or sportspersons but given my son’s abilities, sport in general and soccer in particular was not something we had quite envisaged in our parenting future. And it wasn’t for the lack of trying. Yep. We’d tried our hand at quite a variety of sporting activities in the last 5 years – skating, karate, swimming, cycling, and even a bit of cricket. Sure, he learned to swim and cycle fast enough but it was more surgical. Like essential skills he needed to learn. And then came soccer.
Sam started developing an interest in the game a few months ago, which we thought was pretty late in the day. A fact that we are rudely reminded of often. Like the time a fellow soccer mom remarked: Why is it that your son doesn’t play football? His father plays and coaches doesn’t he? Or How come he has just started playing? None of your business ladies!
Heck, we knew we were not raising a Messi/Ronaldo so we should be just happy that he had at least shown an interest! Happy? Of course we are happy, we are downright ecstatic!! Our purpose was and still is more health related: as long as he is active and pursues any physical activity we are fine with it. But Sam, being who he is, did not disappoint. His level of energy, his passion and dedication to the game took even his dad (a former soccer player) by surprise. For the past six months Sam has simply amazed us by his relentless pursuit of learning the nuances of the game – in theory and practice. His commitment has been faultless. Again, you may well ask: what’s so special about that? Well, if it had been music or even mechanics/engineering (some areas that he is naturally good at and success comes with little effort) I would not have been writing this post. But this, this is different. This is a sport that requires tremendous physical prowess, coordination, team play, stamina and endurance. All the areas that Sam is not a natural. Of course as parents we can see and understand the shortcomings. But we can also see his willingness to learn, his infectious enthusiasm and pure, unbridled joy at being on the field.
It has only served to reaffirm our faith that Sam’s gift lies in his ability to learn almost anything, no matter how tough, no matter how long the journey. It definitely makes us damn proud, especially when we see his awkward little body and clumsy gait running in sheer abandonment on the field, trying his best to keep up with his teammates. My heart definitely skips a beat when I see his eyes light up with excitement every time he scores a goal during practice or get a word of praise from the coach. For him, and for us too, each of these little moments are as precious as they are rare – given his awkward journey in the world of sport. And an incredible journey it promises to be, as Sam continues to learn more about the art of team-play, the pain of losing and the joy of winning a game, scoring that winning goal or that crucial pass. It’s a journey that we know will not be too long (like most gifted children, Sam tends to move on to newer pastures once he has learned and mastered everything there is about a topic – which has its downside too we know).
But for now, the very fact that he has undertaken this journey at all, is incredible.
For now, it is what it is. And what it is – is amazing.