Fun comes first for ragtag team

City Diary

October 24, 2001

MY TWO sons play on a soccer team in a league that doesn't exist. They play for the Charles Village Travel Team along with several of their friends. Like us, not very many of them actually live in Charles Village. That's only the beginning.

We are a ragtag bunch with not much going for us. Except the players are wildly enthusiastic, their siblings are intermittently enthusiastic, the parents are maniacally enthusiastic and the coaches, luckily, come from countries where they grew up playing the sport. So they are talented as well as enthusiastic. After that, it all goes downhill pretty fast.

Last year, not too long after we had assembled this motley crew of "under 12s" and "under 10s" ("under" being the operative word), we discovered there were no teams to play against.

The city league had dissolved. So our kids practiced a lot, and occasionally one of the Catholic league teams would agree to play us on its off day. They called it a scrimmage, we called it a game. They usually won, and then we went home. This year, still lacking a league, we officially joined the Archdiocese of Baltimore Soccer Program.

There are four teams in our league that begin with "Saint," one with "Sacred," one with "Shrine," one with "Our Lady." Then there is ours - the Co-ed Charles Village Coyotes.

Most of the players on the other teams show some resemblance to each other. Ours come in all shapes, sizes, colors and genders. We get some funny looks.

Although it's the end of the season, we're not nearly ready to quit. Even the parents and the younger siblings have joined, abandoning the sidelines for a chance to kick the ball. This is not unusual for our team; at last year's final practice in Druid Hill Park, our home field, the coach invited everyone to play.

I have no experience with soccer, but I did play a lot of field hockey and lacrosse in high school. I always played left wing so, without thinking, I found myself gravitating to the left side of the field. As I ran up and down, a feeling of familiarity began to settle over me. I know where I am, and where I'm supposed to be, I thought. It's just field hockey without the sticks. I can do this.

My confidence was boosted that day when, because I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, I scored the first goal of the game. My boys were ecstatic (I was, after all, playing on their team) and so was I. What a rush. I was pumped!

I was such a competitive showoff, in fact, that after the game I was asked to become a coach.

"You're kidding," I panted, breathless. "I don't know anything about soccer." Steve, one of the two parents who manage the team, just laughed.

"Of course, you do," he said. "You would be a terrific assistant coach. The girls on this team need you. If it's truly going to be a co-ed team, then we need co-ed coaching."

I was having too much fun. "Sure," I agreed. "Why not?"

We hung around for a long time after practice that day, my boys and I, as did several other families. The weather was glorious, and the kids cavorted on the field while the parents slumped to the ground and began to stiffen up. "That was great," said one. "I could do it every Saturday."

"I had forgotten how much fun team sports are."

"I never knew I wanted to play soccer!"

We reminisced about our teams and the fun we used to have while wearing that same happy afterglow our children sport when they play, full of the thrill of being alive and of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. Adults, I realized, don't have nearly enough fun. We don't laugh often enough, and we certainly don't run often enough.

That Saturday I did both at the same time, and I felt 17 again. Of course, the next day I felt 70. But it was worth it. I want to feel that way again.

Today's writer

Michelle Trageser is an architect, free-lance writer and soccer mom who lives in North Baltimore.

City Diary provides a forum for examining issues and events in Baltimore's neighborhoods and welcomes contributions from readers.

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