Monday, 16 June 2014

The Remax Balloons Rule the Roost!

It has been a pretty busy couple of months at the Prosk/Theriault household.  Sheila has been busy gobbling up extra hours at work, staying late after shifts and going in on Saturdays to catch up.  I have been trying my best to keep up, working a couple of extra shifts last week, and another one again this week.  Sheila and I have joked regularly about how she is the family breadwinner, even more so now after she earned herself a significant raise recently.  I don't mind in the least, and have made a concerted effort recently to step up in the domestic duties department.  I have been doing the grocery shopping for most of 2014, and even Sheila will admit, I have done a bang up job.  The basement freezer has gone from empty to overflowing, as I am not afraid to buy volume if the price is right.  I have made more dinners, washed more dishes, vacuumed more floors, and folded more laundry then I ever have before.  Let's not get carried away, I went from not nearly enough helping to almost enough helping, but progress is being made.

When I am not busy with the tasks of keeping the house liveable, Asher, Jasmine and I have been more than busy soaking up the spring sunshine and playing every sport imaginable.  When I ask Asher what he would like to do, the answer almost every time recently is: "Dad!  Let's walk to the high school and play baseball!"  We walk the kilometer or so to the high school diamond, not forgetting to pack our bat, our gloves, our baseball, and our most recent acquisitions: an elbow pad for batting, and an umpire's brush for sweeping off the plate.  My son, who is not quite 3 and a half, can throw a strike from 20 feet away.  Now, I don't know how crazy that is really, but most children his age have no clue how to hold a ball in order to throw it.  The actual act of throwing it is far beyond the scope of possibilities.  Last night, Asher was figuring out how to squeeze his glove when the ball goes in, so he doesn't drop it.  He managed to hold on a number of times before getting bored with baseball.  The last time we were at the diamond Asher squared up a number of hits, including one he hit so hard that the grounder made it past me and all the way to the outfield grass.  Oh, and it's not just baseball.  That last trip to the school, we brought along our football and a soccer ball as well.  Asher thought it was pretty cool that we were going to play all 3 sports before coming home.  Unfortunately, during our spirited game of soccer, I was defending Jasmine pretty hard (next goal was the winner), and due to us being in bare feet she bent her big toe the wrong way, leaving her pretty badly incapacitated.

While Jasmine hasn't been and won't be as sports obsessed as her dad or her brother, she also loves to be active.  In the past week she and I have had a chance to toss a football a few different times, we stopped and played basketball at the school, we bounced on the trampoline together, she joined Asher and I for a game of baseball, she regularly rides her bike to school, not to mention the ill-fated soccer game on top of her regular soccer sessions with her team.  Toss in a couple of trips to the swimming pool and I think Jasmine is doing a decent job of staying active.  Her toe injury has laid her up a bit for the last couple days, and she will likely have to miss her second soccer game tonight, but she should be as good as new before long.  Of all the casual sports activities she has been doing, it's her skill with a football that has been most impressive.  She is a rather tall 11 year old with long arms and legs, a rather ideal build for both throwing and catching the football.  And wow, throw the ball she does.  Again, I have no idea how a typical 11 year old throws a football, but my girl has a pretty serious arm.  She can hit me from 15 yards no problem, and even at 20 with a little less accuracy.  With more practice her already solid catching ability will only get better.  I started out jokingly suggesting she try football, but as we have played catch more and more she has warmed to the idea.  I have made it clear to her that she is pretty good with this throw and catching, it's the whole  tackling and blocking thing that she may find tough.  She is not exactly a violent person.  We are still contemplating the idea of joining the football league, Jasmine's one condition being that I need to coach in some way.  It made me all warm and fuzzy knowing that she still wants Pops be her side when she jumps into these things.  If she ends up playing, I have told her that yes, I'll be there to try it out with her.

Aside from all of our backyard sporting activities, we have been more than busy with organized soccer.  Since the start of May we have been at the fields on Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night and Saturday mornings.  I have had a lot of fun coaching Jasmine and Asher's teams, unfortunately both teams have played at 9 am Saturday morning for most of the season.  This past Saturday was a rare chance to coach both teams as the games were scheduled for 9 and 10 o'clock.  I love see the little guys every Saturday, all so very cute in their too big jersey's, and their shorts and socks that cover every inch of their legs.  We only had 5 boys this week as it was a busy weekend for many families, and the blustery wind may have kept a few away too.  The boys have a hard time having any kind of a game at this age, but this week both teams did really well.  The game went for over 20 minutes, easily the longest game of the season.  Asher is always engaged in the game, but this time a few others joined him, and between the 2 teams there was only the coaches and 1 or 2 other parents on the field, also a big accomplishment in the under 3 division.  My son, without being too dramatic, is far beyond the level of the other boys.  I didn't realize that our frequent goofing around sessions in the basement and in the yard would lead to him being a "Ronaldo" of sorts.  With his uncle Ian and his cousin Charlotte at the field watching Asher managed 11 goals, 10 of them on the right net.  After high fiving all the boys for their effort, Asher and I made our way over to the bigger fields where Jasmine's team was getting ready to start their game.

The game was set to start as we arrived on the sidelines.  My co-coach Brady was finishing off the warm up with the girls, and I joined in to run sideline to sideline a few times with the girls.  The turnout was notably sparse.  Jasmine was pitch side, but in her clothes, sitting in a lawn chair due to her previously mentioned injury.  The 11 and 12 year old girls play on a 3/4 sized field, 8 players on at a time instead of the standard 11 players on the full sized field.  Looking around, we only had 7 girls.  Bizarrely, the turn out has been better for our Wednesday practices then it has been for games.  We had 12 girls at our last practice.  This day, we would play without Jasmine, without Autumn, without Payden, without Kate, and without Nyiesha.  The Remax Balloons (as the girls coined themselves) did have 7 players ready to go, including our 2 first year players Ariel and Kyrija, as well as our best player Taylor, and our best defender Kayla.  We also had a goalie, Taryn, ready to go.  We also had Katie and Carah who would fill out the 3-3-0 formation that we were set to play.  Yes, we had to go without a forward due to being short a player.  Most of the girls are not prepared to play the whole game, so this would be quite a monumental ask of them.  Oh, did I forget to mention that of our previous 10 games, we had lost all 10 of them?  To top it off, for some reason, the girls are at their worst on Saturday mornings, Brady having had to witness a 9-1 dismantling and a 10-2 debacle the previous 2 weeks.  On this day though, something special happened.

The Remax Balloons didn't have just one or two girls working hard and playing their best, all 7 girls decided that it was time to see what they were capable of.  Taylor is the straw that stirs the proverbial drink.  She has significant amounts of skill, but her main advantage is her aggressive and constant pursuit of the soccer ball.  On this day, we were asking her to play centre midfield, striker, and even help out on defence.  And she did. 

The girls started the game very well, and Brady and I quickly took note of the level of aggression that Carah was playing with.  She hasn't made it to too many of the games, so we still didn't have a good idea of how she played.  Carah has played many different positions this season when she has been at games, but this week, she was playing left defence.  Wow!  As they say in soccer, she plays a "heavy game".  Every other girl on our team suffers from simply being "too nice" on the soccer pitch.  Even those like Taylor, Autumn and Payden who play quite aggressively will slow down or take it easy when they think that a collision or physical confrontation is approaching.  Not Carah.  At times on Saturday, she even appeared to enjoy the physical part of the game.  Now, we as coaches are not about to encourage the girls to commit fouls or to play dirty, but Carah's approach to the game leaves us in a limbo of sorts.  She is fairly new to the game, so if we tell her to slow down, she may slow down too much.  We don't want her to hurt anyone else or herself, but the way I saw it, she was providing the muscle for our team that had been so sorely lacking.  The referee was on his game and called a few fouls, which were warranted as Carah was around the ball constantly during the game.  She combined with Kayla, who always plays a very steady centre defence to smother the other team.  Kayla's game is quite the opposite of Carah's.  Never one to commit a foul, but also never one to give up on a play, Kayla plays a smart soccer game.  She is the stay at home defender who covers for her teammates who stray out of position.  So steady is she, that often she is taken for granted by myself and Brady (her dad).  Katie rounded out the defensive group with a very good effort herself.  She is one of our regular defenders as well, and she was at her best Saturday making smart safe passes away from our goal and up towards our midfield attackers.  Our goalie Taryn only had a couple of shots, and they were slow rollers that she easily picked up. 

The key to the Remax Balloon's first win of the season was not the steady and always reliable play of Taylor, or even the stout and impenetrable defence provided by Carah, Kayla and Katie, it was the effort put out by our two first year players, Ariel and Kyrija.  Now, when the season started I'll admit that I was pretty surprised that of the 12 girls on the roster, 2 of them would be playing for the first time.  When I met the girls, and saw them play for the first time, neither of the new girls would be considered "a natural".  I immediately took a liking to both girls, but for different reasons.  Ariel struck me as bit hard headed, she has a bit of a tough attitude, and she demonstrated this famously by quipping towards the end of our second game: "I f---ing hate soccer!!"  After I inquired as to why, she pointed out: "I'm only playing because my foster mom made me!  I wanted to sign up for karate!"  Oddly enough, she had put forth a strong effort in the game, and I was more then happy to point out to her how well she played.  "You may hate it, but this soccer might be your thing," I replied.  Kyrija her aunt told me was trying out sports for the first time.  She and her mom had encouraged Kyrija to step out of her comfort zone and try a few new things, and soccer was one of them.  Kyrija is quite a small girl, and due to her unfamiliarity with soccer, she is nervous about being run into, she is worried about being hit with the ball, and she has no clue what to do as far as positioning on the field goes.  Brady and I have continued to assign her a position, but for the most part we just ask her to try her best.  A few weeks ago, she was running around the field doing what appeared to be a form of interpretive dance.  Some games, the game is the furthest thing from her mind.  On this particular Saturday morning, Ariel did not hate soccer, and most certainly Kyrija's mind was focused on soccer. 

The first goal of the game came due to a herculean effort from Ariel. I have been more than impressed all season by her willingness to give maximum effort on the field.  Many girls in this age group never sprint full out.  They refuse to kick the ball as hard they can, perhaps worried about hurting someone.  Not Ariel.  She has become our throw in specialist simply because she rears back and throws the ball with all of her strength.  On this play, she fought to take the ball from a defender, then made a solid pass to Taylor.  Taylor played a lead ball down the pitch, too far for Ariel.  As the defender went back to collect it, she was surprised when she looked up because Ariel and sprinted down the field and applied pressure.  The defender rushed, and made a dangerous pass towards the middle of the field.  Taylor got to the ball first and after a strong first touch she slotted the ball into the back of the net.  Brady and I were beaming.  This was the first time all season that we had been ahead!  I was happy for all of the girls, but Ariel most of all.  She simply isn't aware of what she is capable of.  The game continued, and Carah and Kayla continued to play stifling defence giving the other team very few chances to score.  I pointed out to Brady that Kyrija was way more involved in the play than she ever had been before, even getting her foot to the ball on a few occasions.  Already having touched the ball more times than she had all season, she got herself involved with a bit of traffic in the other teams box.  The ball squirted out to her where she put her foot to the ball and hit it towards the net.  As the ball slowly rolled towards the far post, I momentarily convinced myself that it was headed in.  Alas, it lacked the power to elude the goaltender, but that didn't stop Brady and I from celebrating another victory for the team.  Moments afterwards, perhaps buoyed by the effort from her less skilled teammates, Taylor took advantage of a loose ball and blasted in a second goal.  This one from at least 25 yards out, a distance that most of the girls wouldn't even think to be shooting from.  As the minutes wound down, and a win became more and more a possibility, I couldn't help but smile uncontrollably.  Jasmine had provided a cheering section from the bench, and she quite enjoyed the win despite her injury.  We got a chance to celebrate afterwards, 2 of the girls winning a soccer game for the first time in their life.  Tonight we get a chance to do it all again, maybe those who missed the game Saturday will be inspired to get a win of their own.  All I know, is that I am still beaming with pride from the last game.

That about does it for me.  I hope you have enjoyed my rambling account of a pretty fun Saturday morning at the soccer field.  I had a great Father's Day yesterday even though I fell asleep during the family movie.  I dozed off on the sofa before 8 pm only to wake up 7 hours later and crawl upstairs and into bed.  We have another busy week ahead before soccer ends for the summer.  Take care Mom, Sheila, Elizabeth and my other three readers!