Regular readers may recall that after the team from the next level at our club took all of the eight-year olds early last year, we faced a rebuilding process that was complicated by the fact that everything had to be explained to the kids instead of them being able to see the older boys putting the ideas into practice.
With the exception of two tournaments that we couldn’t reasonably skip, we basically took nine months out of the tournament cycle in order to let the kids develop without getting hurt or having their confidence crushed. Today was their first tournament together as a team of eight-year olds, and they wasted no time in running completely amok.
Despite doing my best to rein them in, they averaged seven goals per game in their first five games, all shutouts, and in some of those cases it could have easily been 20-0. They ran out of steam or they would have won the last game too instead of tying 1-1, the combination of a silly defensive blunder and missing five straight easy chances at the end kept them from a perfect day. But I was proud of them for refusing to quit even when they found themselves unexpectedly behind halfway through the game.
The play of the day was a gorgeous backwards pass from our substitute center-mid, a Brazilian kid whose urge to display his one-on-one skills sometimes works to the detriment of the team. But in this case, he was boxed in by two defenders and flicking it across the field behind him with the bottom of his foot was the only option with any chance of success. Unfortunately, the shot he created for our striker was saved by the goalie, but it was fun to see the look of surprise on the faces of the people watching the game nevertheless.
There are few things more beautiful than seeing flawless execution in sports at any level. These kids have always known what to do, but they just weren’t physically capable of doing it before. Now that they’re strong enough to send a pass cutting all the way across the field, experienced enough to anticipate it and fast enough to run onto it, they’re doing exactly what I hoped they’d be able to do at this point.
I don’t know if these kids can imitate their predecessors and take out the professional feeder squads of Blue and Black, but at the very least, they’re definitely going to scare them.
And what’s kind of cool is that because of the success we’ve been having at the lowest two age levels, the club is adding a third team so the kids can stay with the program three years longer than before.