My son Joey has played soccer ever since he was 3 years old. In our community soccer is the main sport, everyone played and our kids were no different.
Joey started to get noticed by some of the club coaches when he was 7 years old. He was dominating in the rec league in town so I decided to let him play club soccer…in some states it’s called travel league.
Joey was always the smallest kid on the field but had the biggest heart, this kid wouldn’t quit hassling the other team trying to steal the ball from them. His perseverance usually worked, often resulting in a goal for the good guys in the early years.
While growing up Joey continued to play club soccer through elementary school and middle school, he had 2 dreams regarding soccer.
One was to play for his high school team and represent his school. This was a lofty goal because like I said everyone in town played and had the same dream. The other dream was to get a scholarship to play college soccer.
It was the fall of 2011 and Joey was a freshman in high school, October came around and he told me that tryouts were next week.
I was working for myself so I made it to all the tryouts, the upperclassmen were towering over him and were very fast, but he had great ball control and the ability to see the whole field which was a distinct advantage. I watched all week as the number of players dwindled from 90 plus kids closer to the 25 needed for the final roster.
Finally it was the last day of cuts and my boy was still there playing his heart out…slide tackling bigger guys…he didn’t care. At the end of the last day of tryouts Joey and his 2 buddies that were freshman also didn’t make the cut.
The coach singled those 3 out and said he wished he had 3 more spots… it made them feel good but they were still disappointed.
Joey’s 2 friends were twins, only their soccer team mates and their parents could tell them a part. Joey looked quite a bit like them you know with the blond hair and icy blue eyes (chicks dig ’em) Sometimes we’d call them the triplets.
Well, freshman year came and went and soon it was time again for soccer tryouts. This time all 3 boys made it!!! They didn’t see the field much except for scrimmages and blowouts. It was good experience and Joey learned a lot at practice and was always striving to get better each day.
The team didn’t do very well or play up to their standards his freshman or sophomore years, they didn’t even win a game in the playoffs either year.
My son made an elite club team in the spring of his Sophomore year and he was thrilled. The team was in the top 5 in the state, he knew if he played hard every night at practice he would get a lot better and move closer to his dream of a soccer scholarship for college.
He did just that, Joey was the last man on the bench to start the year. He was smaller than everyone else but always gave the biggest effort and had the biggest desire to be the best. One time at the beginning of the season he was on the field and there was 5 top notch players sitting while my boy was playing.
The coach asked one of them why he thought Joey was playing and the rest of you are sitting. Joey’s team mate said he didn’t know, so the coach said…well, I’ll tell ya why. That kid has more heart and grit in him than all of you combined…he never gives up and it’s contagious for our team.
He’s gotten a lot better and he deserves to be out there. After the 3rd game of the year Joey started and he never looked back.
Junior year started and October came around along with high school try outs. Joey knew he had gotten a lot better so he thought there was a good chance to get some playing time. He was right, he was named a starter and usually played the whole game.
He was asked to play defense which was a lot different than midfield but he put his shoulder into it and he became a very good defender.
He figured this would help him trying to play college ball since he could play multiple positions. Despite the teams hard work that year they came up short not even making it to Regions. Joey was disappointed but he still had senior year to go…and I thought his senior class was going to be special.
High school tryouts senior year was way different than freshman year that’s for sure. He knew he’d make the team since he was a returning starter. He did make the team and the twins did too… get this, the 3 that didn’t make the cut freshman year were named tri-captains in their senior year!!!
I was a proud papa because he worked so hard for it. All 3 deserved it. The season went along very well and at one point the boys were the number 3 ranked team in Florida. That was a huge accomplishment since Florida, Texas & California are hot beds for soccer talent.
Our boys made it through the playoffs to the region final in Orlando. A few minutes into the action Joey had a corner kick, instead of kicking it in the air he hit one on the ground to his team mate and he one timed it into the back of the net.
1-0 GOOD GUYS!!! That score held up until just before half and the Orlando team tied it up 1-1. Orlando scored again a few minutes into the 2nd half so now we were down 2-1. Our boys were playing hard, they had lost only one game all year and had one tie and 18 wins…they couldn’t possibly lose and not go to the final 4.
With 5 minutes left one of our players was fouled in the box so we got a penalty kick. Here was our chance to tie it up. Joey asked the coach who do you want to take the kick and he said you decide Joey…you’re the captain.
He pointed to his boy Cody to take the kick because everyone knows he’s money. Cody lined up and let it rip to his left and the goalie stretched out and knocked it down. NO GOAL!!!
Our boys were crushed, they felt the season slipping away. That’s the way the score stayed 2-1 bad guys and the season was over.
At the end of the game all the seniors dropped to their knees and cried, especially Cody, that poor kid was inconsolable.
The next thing that happened made me more proud of my son than any of his achievements on the field.
Joey saw his buddy Cody distraught and ran over to him and told him this… “he said, it’s not your fault, that kid guessed right and knocked the ball out.
I’m your captain and if I had to make the choice all over again to take that shot I’d still pick you.” My boy deserved to be captain that year because he knew enough to put his team mates feelings above his and everyone else’s.
That was truly a statement from a very good leader. Sure my wife and I brought him up right, but it takes a special person to do that.
My takeaways from this story are:
- Never ever ever ever give up on your dreams!!!
- My son was actually listening to me and my wife while he was growing up.
- A true leader puts other people’s feelings and needs above their own.
PS. Joey did get a scholarship to play college soccer at a school in South Carolina. He achieved both his goals regarding soccer!!!