Our soccer team of 12-year-olds showed a lot of heart this weekend as they battled to take third place in a tournament with 10 teams. They played Friday night and won handily 4-0 after we drove around in circles for more than an hour trying to find where we were going. On Saturday, they won a hard-fought game 1-0 and then finally gave out that evening and lost a heartbreaker 2-1. Even with the loss, we qualified to advance to the semi-finals Sunday morning. The boys lost 3-1 to the team that eventually won the tournament.
But, the boys' blood, sweat and tears helped them earn their third place medals Sunday afternoon as they battled a team of cheaters. As Coach Army of Dad put it: The boys beat the team with the best 14-year-old keeper in the 12-year-old division. Swear to God. When I saw the kid on the field, my first thought was "why is that coach on the field?" He was SOOO not 12. It was so blatant that the referee stopped the game and went to ask a tournament official to do a roster check because the boy did not appear 12. The official asked a coach for the boy's name, but the coach didn't know the kid's last name. Sound fishy to you, too? Well, at halftime, they asked the "child" to write his name and birthdate and after a check, it matched a name on the roster. Short of that, there isn't much they can do. We can file formal complaints, etc. but that doesn't change things. All of our boys were frustrated, the parents were frustrated and we, as coaches, were frustrated. But, we told the boys that we can't change anything, we have to deal with the situation. That other team had no substitutes, so our boys (who coach whips into tiptop shape with lots of fitness practices) just ran them down. We were down 1-0 at halftime. The boys just kept on punching the ball back into the other end and kept taking shot after shot. With about 12 minutes to go in the second half, we tied it up 1-1. Then, with about two minutes left in the game - the boys shot another one in to put us ahead 2-1. As time was running out, the boys were about to put in a third goal, but time expired before they were able to do it. Our scoring MVP had a loose tooth anyway, but it got knocked a little looser sometime during the game, but he didn't care when we won. He came off the field wiggling it and smiling!
The moral to the story is that cheaters never win. It was a wonderful lesson we were able to teach the boys! They were very proud of themselves. Here are the boys with their medals.
And, here were our tournament MVPs. The kid on the left was all over the field on defense and made plays that made him stand out from the rest of the team. The kid on the right was our top scorer in the tournament.
Here are the boys looking at the trophy. We had lots of happy parents, too. We wanted to beat the cheaters (seen in the background) because it just wasn't fair for the boys to work hard and lose like that. You can see the giant keeper (standing at the bench with his foot up behind our parents). That mom standing with the navy sweatshirt and arms crossed was so mad, she said "So, they'll figure out he isn't 12 when he drives home!" It was amusing.
Here is one of the few action shots I got. My camera is on its last leg.
And, one of my favorites with his fancy footwork.
He is one of the best players and was one of our season MVPs, but he got cleated early on and was suffering the whole tournament. But, he persevered.
These kids are hams! The one with his hand on the keeper is the one above with the fancy footwork.
It was pretty cold most of the tournament!
And, of course, this group is never complete without a nutty picture. It is the team's trademark. Of course, I love our MVP on the far right. He isn't paying attention to the craziness -he is focused on his medal! The kids made the newspaper today. While calling all of them to tell them, I got Wow, Cool, Sweet and other exclamations. They're pretty proud of themselves and they should be.