Susan Manzke

Plans change sometimes. Instead of visiting farm friends who were still filling their silo, we headed to Plover to a soccer game. No, it wasn’t a SPASH varsity game with Ethan playing. It was a game with 4-year- olds and another with 7-year-olds.

Caleb playing soccer

We visited with Rob. His family is adding numbers as he is remarrying. Tara and Rob will tie the knot next year, but she and her two children are already part of our family. Caleb is 7, and Aryana is 4.

Caleb’s game was first. Seven-year-olds (both boys and girls) know they are supposed to move the ball toward a goal and score, but the rest of the rules are kind of vague.

All the players preferred being forwards, attacking the ball. The two left on defense were a bit lax on their assigned post. Most of the time, they would follow the offense down the field, leaving their goal wide open. One goal was scored when a defense player was bored. He turned his back on the action and fussed with the goal netting. It surprised him when a ball came rolling in next to him. Oops.

Bodies were falling and tripping all over the field. Tears flowed as shin guards were often missed, leaving a team member limping back to a parent for sympathy. And all these actions took place on both teams.

Playing for a whole hour was the biggest challenge. “I’m tired,” was the lament heard often in the second half. Players defected to the sideline until the parents/coaches/referees relented and called a water break. After a little encouragement, the teams returned to the field to finish the hour.

After Caleb’s game, we traveled across the field to watch the 4-year-old players. At 4, the soccer players are just learning what to do with the ball. A parent/coach was leading them in a game of Simon Says to teach them.

“Simon Says kneel on the ball,” he told them. Most followed his instructions. One little boy had to have his dad on the field, holding his hand. The dad was very supportive, knowing his son would eventually join his team. It may take a few more weeks, or months, but with Dad’s support, he’ll get less shy. I don’t think they allow dads on the field when a varsity game is going on.

When Simon said to put your left ear on the ball, half the players did their right ear. Any time left or right instructions were given, the children did whichever they liked. Simon didn’t mind. The hardest part was when the players were told to go around in a circle. One little girl went clockwise when the others were going counterclockwise. It was like trying to swim upstream.

Aryana (we call our 7-year-old Arianna Anna when the whole family is together) may turn into a good soccer player — time will tell. Right now she’s a pretty good drama queen, like all the other 4-year-old players. She also came to the sidelines by the family for a snack now and then. When she tired, she sat down in the middle of their little playing field. The game went on around her, but luckily she didn’t get hit or stepped on.

Both teams wore out a few minutes before the end of their hour. The game was called because only two players were still on the field.

It was sure fun to watch. I know the players will get better. Years ago, we watched Seth and Ethan play the same type of games, and both boys have really improved — Ethan enough to be a varsity goalie.

Lunchtime at home, and all their lost energy returned. Soccer balls were replaced with basketballs in the driveway. All ages played. Well, I played until I got blindsided with a ball. Bob said I’ll never make a good soccer player because I should have hit the ball with my head instead of being hit by it in the nose. I survived and didn’t go crying to the sideline. Yay team!

Ethan, Grandma Susan, Seth, Grandpa Bob, Caleb and Aryana

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;