As the Rovers gathered in the corner for warmups at Globall Sunday afternoon, their thoughts were, as usual, on the upcoming game or what was going on at school. They were talking, laughing, and just enjoying being together as this close knit group always does.
And it was fun to watch them.
But they did not realize the reality that was slowly beginning to creep up on them.
The Rovers, this Winter, had 10 players for both Winter sessions at Globall. They played mostly Premier level teams and held their own with the highlight being a 3-3 tie against LISC Premier who had beaten them 3 times previously. We knew what to expect this Winter and set our goals to be to work on skills, keep playing some soccer, and just have fun no matter what happens.
And as I stood there watching them during warmups, now young adults, I could not help but reflect back on the group of little girls they were when they first started.
I remembered so many of their firsts. The first time they scored at Lehigh, the first time they scored on a set piece, the first time they won a tournament, the first beach tournament, the first time I let them soak me with water after a win, the first time they all began bringing 2 water bottles to soak me with water!
I remembered the girls crying and hugging after their shootout win that sent us to our first L.I. Cup appearance as well as watching them crying and hugging after that first L.I. Cup loss.
And most recently, I remembered them winning their first championship taking first place at Lehigh this past year.
All special moments in this team’s history.
As a coach, part of my job is to give these girls perspective on what is going on at the time. Making accomplishments seem more important than they are to build confidence, or less important to keep them level headed and humble. And in the end, knowing that this thing that we created is not about a ball, or a field, or a win or loss. It is about creating good, well rounded young adults, building long lasting friendships, and giving them memories they will never forget.
So as I watched them warm up I would have to bring them to this new realization that was about to occur.
I called the team over for our pre game talk. Of course they looked at me like all 13/14 yr olds do, that they had heard it all before.
But I would not talk X’s and O’s today.
I said to them that today may be a very important game for them. I said that this most likely may be the team’s last Winter game. (U14 is the highest division offered at Globall and most Winter Leagues, and as the girls were all entering high school, next year, with some going to other schools, and most joining school sports, the likelihood of having the time or energy to play during the Winter again next year was very small.)
As they thought for a second, I saw them as they began to realize and understand this fact. They were silent but now focused on my every word.
So I continued with my message. I told them that they should approach this game carefree. Go out there and enjoy playing soccer, and enjoy being with each other. Have fun with it, and do not worry about anything. Enjoy the moment. And then I said our Captain, Abby (who is injured) would be coaching today! (to applause and hugs!)
As we went out to the field and the game started, I sat at the end of the bench while Abby took over. I helped her for about 10 minutes, and then the team was hers to guide.
The girls on the field were playing some great soccer. They were talking and laughing during the game and looked so happy. Abby was pointing things out to players. They were a machine.
And as I sat there watching them, just thinking back to when this all started and how far they have all come, and to see the friendships and tight family they had formed, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was that these girls welcomed me into their lives and let me be a part of them growing up.
The girls would go on and win 5-0 beating Hicksville and the Winter Season was over.
Dunkin Donuts would follow where the girls decided on having a team dinner to celebrate the Winter Season.
The Rovers will continue next Fall and who knows how long they will stay together. My guess is until the end of High School.
But one thing is for sure.
Every minute they are with each other will not be taken for granted.
They will make the most of their time together.
As will I.
— Coach Frank