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Lessons learned on the soccer field

Posted: November 22, 2008 8:35 p.m.
Updated: November 23, 2008 4:55 a.m.
 
The colorful, hard soccer ball made in China soared toward the netted goal 50 feet away, kicked by a red-shirted player, only to be blocked by the defensive foot of the green-shirted goal guard.

Instantly the ball became a free-for-all target of all 10 young players - five on each team - racing over the grass of Valencia's Old Orchard Park.

All the players are girls, about age four, schooled in the game's rules and penalties by a father of a girl on each team serving as coach.

The reduced number of players on each team - 11 is standard for adult teams - is not explained as a recruiting or coaching problem, but the ground's field is also proportionally smaller to accommodate the size and strength of these miniature feminists who otherwise might be home playing with their dolls.

The team coaches apparently are allowed to enter the playing field during a momentary stoppage, or if the ball is kicked out of bounds, to consult a player about a mistake.

Another adult on the field, the referee, seems not to take notice.

On either border a few feet away from the marked sidelines, seated in chairs brought from home, are the parents of the players, who may bring a Band-Aid or two to cover a scratch or bruise but who are otherwise in attendance to cheer and clap their team toward the goal.

Mistakes? The game is punctured by them, like a balloon blown into a rosebush. So who cares?

These gamestresses are learning to be smarter five times faster than in my time, five generations ago.

Back then, in the middle of the Depression, youngsters got three things: food, sleep and maybe kindergarten. Period.

The obvious points of smartness here on the soccer field are the combined lessons of cooperation with others, obeying rules or being penalized, learning quickly how to solve a problem and acting on it in timely fashion.

Who knows what the lessons of the game will do for these happy female soccerites when they sit in their first class of geometry or history, who, today, may not be able to write their own name or multiply 4 times 6?

Modesty is another lesson learned on the field. The player who kicks a goal is swamped by her teammates and cheered by the parents of her team.

Yet after her first game, one 4-year-old announced to a visitor at her home who inquired about the game, "I kicked a goal." Just four words. Without braggadocio.

A greater lesson is that physical activity - athletics - introduces a lifestyle of not just pleasure but one that can battle sickness and disease, that can be the rubber band that stretches out the term of life.

Roy S. Bloss is a resident of Rancho Palos Verdes. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.

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