All my son ever wanted was to play with the big boys.

He never fancied himself as the best player around, never harbored any illusions about his abilities. He never cut himself any slack; if anything, he was his own worst critic.

From an early age, he knew that in order to improve, he had to surround himself with better players. I think that’s true in any pursuit. Serious competition pushes you to up your game, as you learn new and better moves on the job.

Even though he’s asked to play up, that fervent wish has never been granted him. Rec leagues ignored his requests, or we couldn’t afford Select/Premier for the longest time. In fact, nobody wanted him in Select or Premier. We know this from last spring’s disastrous tryouts, where the coaches didn’t even look his way.

This past week, he tried out for a spot on a team representing his high school. He impressed a few returning Varsity players. The captain even chose him for a scrimmage.

When the cuts came Tuesday, he learned he made it. On Wednesday, he saw his name on the list for the JV squad, one of only a handful of freshmen.

When I asked him how it felt, other than nerve-wracking, he replied, “I was so happy to be around so many players who were better than me.”

Tonight, he was able to play indoor soccer again with his Strikers team — the only time he’s enjoyed a real competitive roster (from 5th-8th grade) — after injuring his finger about six weeks ago. I saw a new and improved player, with new and improved moves and a kick that must’ve gained power, momentum, and accuracy by a thousand.

And, he was holding back from his usual full throttle, because he was beat from the week of tryouts and practice, and he was trying to keep from injuring himself again before high school soccer season even began.

Nevertheless, the Strikers came from behind to win 6-5. My son scored two of those goals, with an assist on a third.

Congratulations, James, for making JV, for earning your spot the hard way, by showing everyone what you’ve been bottling up since first grade.


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