- Special Sections
- Public Notices
It was not supposed to happen.
I was against it. Firmly, against it. I didn’t like it, I didn’t believe in it and I didn’t want to be a part of it.
But now I’m in. Even before the first day of summer, I already have filled several weekends and a few evenings watching youth soccer.
It doesn’t sound like a big deal. But an aversion to the soccer culture could be a generational bias. Growing up in Vine Grove about five decades ago, soccer was not on the radar.
To my memory, the only place it ever appeared was in lousy European kiddie films introduced by Kukla, Fran and Ollie on CBS’ Saturday morning programming. The kids in those movies had peculiar accents or dubbed-in voices that didn’t match their mouth movements.
Besides that, they called it football. Even country kids in the ‘60s knew a football wasn’t round and spotted.
I think another point of resistance developed from years of hearing that soccer is the up and coming sport in America.
Soccer promoters would quote statistics about dramatic growth in participation. But statistics can be deceptive. If I invented a new sport tomorrow – say competitive trash can rolling – it would be the fastest-growing sport in America next month if I could convince three other people to play.
Similar dramatic statistics about growth are attached to every new trend from snap bracelets to cornhole to Facebook.
Other soccer boosters offer a world-view argument that also is tiring. It’s as if the United States is somehow inferior unless Americans embrace soccer’s global popularity. That “sportier-than-thou” attitude fuels resistance to the game’s influence.
It’s not as if I never watched soccer. I’ve glanced at a few minutes of World Cup highlights, saw Mia Hamm and her teammates become national icons and attended some high school games, including participating on the broadcast team for radio coverage at a tiny AM station in southern Kentucky.
But just like a standard soccer ball, my resistance literally was a black-and-white matter: Until a new influence entered the picture last fall.
Our oldest grandson joined a U6 team. (For you other soccer holdouts, the U stands for under. In soccer jargon that means the youth league was open to kids 6 and younger.)
At the first practice, the attitude change was immediate.
Some of it was a response to knowledge, which always helps break down prejudice. I immediately learned the importance of shin guards, why players should kick with the side of their foot and the anticipation that precedes the excitement of every corner kick.
But the biggest influence was the look on one little boy’s face. From his first practice through every game, he grinned. Constantly.
The only time the grin even faded was when he thought his cheering section of parents and grandparents offered too much sideline advise.
Grant loves soccer and his Grandpa loves Grant. That changed my attitude.
Now his little sister and oldest cousin are playing. In fact, the only one of our four grandchildren that does not have a soccer jersey cannot yet walk.
None of the three have demonstrated a natural gift. Coordination is not a common trait shared in our gene pool.
One has a stiff-legged running style that looks robotic. Another gallops like a horse and sings throughout most of the action. A little overwhelmed by all the action, the third often takes root like a tree.
But three players means three times the grins.
And that permanently dissolved my soccer bias.
Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at email@example.com or (270) 505-1764.