My son is attending soccer camp this week in our annual, early-August heat. I watched him finish from the little shade provided by the aluminum bleachers. After it was over, he told me nothing of the drills they did, skills they worked on, or the games they played, but, as this field overlooks the New River (and the only place to find shade on the banks that once provided no shade—another story), he told me that he saw five or six rises in the stretch of river between the Dedmon Center field at Radford University and the little island across from it. Though his feet were tired, he wanted to know if we could put canoe in and maybe “troll the ledges on the other side.” As of yet, he’s still not too much of a soccer player, but he does like to fish.
I played when I was young and loved when all eleven players came together. I liked to run and I guess I had excess energy to burn. Played up until and into college. But, I don’t much like this soccer culture anymore. Sam played on a travel team last year and I saw some benefits: the discipline of practice, the listening to your coach, the working with your teammates. But our team, though talented and made of 10 year-olds, wasn’t always the best of sports (and our parents came in last in the sportsmanship ratings). And for some people, soccer seems like their whole life.
But there we were at camp this morning, with the other soccer moms and dads, dropping off kids in specialty soccer flip flops, the kind with nubbins to message your feet (it is so not cool to wear your cleats until the very last minute). Why do we--collective we--do it (by it, I mean the practices and camps, the travel to games)? There are benefits of exercise, yes—soccer is a very aerobic sport. But why specialize so much? Would his summer days be better filled with the kind of camp where they play outdoor camps, canoe and kayak, swing on rope swings? Can somewhat smarter than me help? Is there a sociological explanation? Is it bragging rights? Part of our economic system? Playing soccer provides some kind of economic capital. That can’t be it—you can’t make money in soccer in the US, but it seems symbolic of something. The suburban parents dropping off kids, in their Suburbans, are mostly doing alright economically.
Balance. I guess that’s what I’m after when it comes to these organized sports. A little soccer here. Some baseball there. Maybe a game of tennis. Or Frisbee. A good hike. Lots of walks on the new place. And tomorrow, after soccer, we’ll see what kind of small-mouthed bass are lurking beneath the rock ledges beyond the pitch. Wonder what will be more exhilarating, offer more reward: the ball in the back of the net, or fish at the bottom of one?
Postscript: caught a beautiful bass on the first cast of the day. It jumped out of the water to throw the hook, but Sam kept him on. A beautiful fish too: golden yellow, a little green, hard brown spots in a stripe up the side, hard lower lip to grab and take the hook out, and to kiss upon release. So there’s a question for readers. Do you kiss your fish?