When I was a kid there was a lot of emphasis placed on athletics. In one form or another myself and all of my siblings excelled at sports and it was only due to the incredible dedication of my parents that this was possible. We were encouraged from a very young age to be as involved as possible in a wide variety of sports and with the one exception of baseball and softball (two of my siblings are girls) we were basically pretty awesome at all of them.
2 of us went on to get Division 1 athletic scholarships and one of us (not me) went on to play sports professionally - albeit for a very short amount of time because time caught up with her and her injury prone situation resulted in her getting cut after just 2 seasons. It's still quite a milestone though when you consider the near statistical impossibility of this sort of thing happening.
But instead of focusing on my sister, i will instead think about one of my situations as a kid where I started to realize that perhaps being a rather dominant player is something that I could accomplish.
I played basically every sport there was a kid and like I mentioned before I was pretty damn good at almost all of them. Where I truly excelled was in soccer and later in life this would result in me getting to go to college for free. However, I can remember back as far as 3rd grade when I started to realize that I was simply a LOT better than the other kids at this game.
I would routinely score multiple goals a game and it got to the point (and I would find out about this later in life) that I was intentionally moved to goalkeeper because we were just blowing out all of the other teams and kids were getting a bit demoralized and even crying on the pitch when they would have try to guard me, mostly unsuccessfully. While I am sure this was a massive point of pride for my mother and father, I guess I can understand why the other parents would like for their kids to at least have a chance. One thing the coach promised me was the he would never intentionally bench me just to give the other team a break (again, I found out about this years later.)
I wasn't your average goalkeeper though, and through the coaching of mostly my father since the "coaches" in USA public youth leagues tend to have "being an adult" as their only qualification for being coach, I would regularly leave the box and play sometimes as far up as the midfield. While I did have defenders, the idea was that if the ball got away from any strikers it would be quickly taken away from them by me, even if I didn't use my hands. On breakaways the opposing strikers would more often than not kick the ball entirely too far ahead of themselves and I would leave the box and clear it. On more than one occasion I would intentionally kick the ball out of bounds in order to get allow my teammates time to get back to help defend.
I would also move forward on corners (on the other team's end) and on 2 ocassions that I can remember I scored on the opposing team during these. I also once scored a goal from midfield when the opposing keeper tried to mock my play style and was too far out. I simply lobbed it over his head into the back of the net.
Before it sounds like I am stroking my own ego too much here, I want you to understand that at that time in America, very young kids played on smaller pitches than adults, so it's not like this was a 50 yard kick or anything. It was still pretty impressive for a 6/7 year old though.
However, none of these are my finest moment as far as I remember.
In one particular game we were up against the only team that really had a chance against us and we finished the game in a 1-1 draw. It was one of the few times that someone had actually scored on me. I wasn't really a goalkeeper, I was forced into this position.
This particular day it was really cold and I think the parents wanted to get the hell out of there so the coaches talked to the official and agreed to head straight for a penalty shootout.
What the heck are those parents doing BEHIND the goal?
Of course I was one of the people on my team that was taking one of our kicks and I scored. I was first. Then I moved back into goal to try to block the shot of the opposing team and succeeded. Our team missed our second goal not by it being blocked but by shooting wildly off target (chump!) and this level of inaccuracy continue for our team. However, I managed to block all but one of the other team's shots on goal and the one that went in was a truly wild shot indeed as it bounced off one post, then flew over to the other one and because our posts were square instead of circular, it went into the net (this might have happened on a circular one as well, the memory is a bit vague as it was many many years ago.)
So there we were on the last ball tied 1-1 on penalties and thankfully our last kicker got it in and secured the victory for our side.
I was only 6 or 7 years old but here we are more than 30 years later and I can still see those shots in my mind. It was a real event for me and my parents and we even talk about it when we get together these days. I knew the other parents saw me as some sort of phenom that was definitely to be admired and as a little kid, that brought me a lot of joy. There would be many many more instances of glory in my soccer "career" but this one is the earliest one that I have in my mind.
In the following season my parents moved me out of the public league into a private one that was far more competitive including having coaches that actually knew what the hell they were doing. Aside from pick-up games I would never play in goal again because I was far more effective on the field - which is something I will get into in a later blog entry.
Do you have any early sports memories? I'd love to talk about them if you do