Today was Will's first soccer game of the season.  He's playing for a new team and a new organization this Fall - Upwards Soccer.  I've heard of Upwards but I had never looked into it.  For months, Will has been into soccer and practicing outside all the time.  It's the thing many of the boys play at recess and he was so excited when our friends visiting from Uganda gave him some coaching in our backyard.  But, I still didn't pursue getting him on a team.
Until, one afternoon in the middle of the summer when our friend and amazing carpenter Joseph came by.  Will was sitting on the couch and Joseph - a young soccer coach and not Will's dad or Will's friend's dad or anyone with any obligation to Will, intentionally invited Will to try out for his soccer team.  I stood in my kitchen (tears in my eyes) as I watched my son's chest swell with pride and his self confidence soar... a real soccer coach wanted him on his team!  It was such a powerful testament to the potential power and influence of a coach on a kid's life.  By inviting Will to play for him, he did something that neither I nor Reagan nor any of our friends can do.  Joseph had no obligation to invite Will.  He simply wanted our kiddo and with those words, he made a difference to a little boy.  He believed in our son and our kid knew it.
So a few weeks later, Will and his Daddy went to tryouts and Will did great.  Due to Will's age, he is actually not on Coach Joseph's team but we've been so impressed with his coach (Coach Larry) and his intentional coaching, teaching, and encouraging of each individual player.

Today, Will played his heart out - in his very old, broken down shoes (new ones ordered last spring still not in!!!) He also played with awful shin splints.  Bless his heart - he is supposed to avoid running in these current awful shoes because they were reinforced at the hospital this week to buy us some more time before new ones are ready but we did have special permission for him to play his first game today.  He spent several hours resting barefoot with his book this afternoon. 
Going for a GOOOOOOAL!

He played his heart out - chasing that ball up and down the field and scored the first goal of the season!!!  

He listened to his coaches and followed directions and drank enormous amounts of gatorade.
One of my proudest moments was when he worked as a team to pass the ball to another kid and that kid got a goal.  The other kid ran to the coach for high fives and Will went running after that kid and gave him a big congratulatory hug!  My heart was full.

Love #3
Afterwards in the players' meeting, the Coach reviewed certain skills and awarded stickers for various  skills he noticed displayed during the game.  When he announced the first award - "E for Effort" - one player began pointing at Will and insisting it go to Will for playing so hard.  Wow!  What a great team and sportsmanlike behavior!  (Will did in fact get the Effort award.)

Coaches that care, that want kids on their teams and are intentional in building up young players, parents cheering (& laughing because kids soccer is pretty awesome), new friends,  and our happy, confident player who wore his jersey all day long with pride...
this soccer season is off to a great start.

Player's huddle - love Will's arm on his coach


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