I didn’t know how Sloan’s soccer debut would go. I dropped the ball and signed her up late. Because of the tardiness, she was waitlisted. When the Spokane Youth Sports Association (SYSA) finally got back to us, they said there was a spot for Sloan but she would have to “play up.” SYSA organizes leagues according to birth year. So my “2017” baby would have to play with “2016” girls on a South Hill team that had already been playing together for a couple years.
Sloan was up for the challenge.
This past Saturday, Sloan concluded her season with the Inky Squids. The team played a six-game campaign that introduced her to a new sport and new friends. Throughout the season, which included seven practices, I saw incredible improvement in skill and confidence.
A lot of that was the result of the coach. Caleb Hatch welcomed Sloan to the team with open arms and treated her with kindness and patience. When I responded to his “welcome” e-mail by saying Sloan might not be at the talent level of the other girls, he said “don’t be concerned” and that everyone deserves to play the game of soccer. He took Sloan under his wing the entire season and really helped her to enjoy her time on the field.
It was so much fun watching Sloan and her teammates play. We had beautiful and sunny Saturday mornings for pretty much the whole season and going to the practices on Thursday evenings was a nice break in the school/work week for the both of us. Sloan got to play in front of her grandma for every game, her grandpa for most, and for her aunts/uncle/cousins for some.
Although I think the desire was partly fueled by the lack of running involved, Sloan embraced the goalie position and played it for a portion of every game. Nothing gave me more pride than watching her get a save! She also became a little more aggressive by the end of the season and when she remembered which way the opponents’ goal was (😂), it was fun to watch her kick the ball. She actually had a shot on goal this last game which kind of put the icing on the cake for her season.
For as much as I talk about Sloan taking a leap of faith to play soccer on an established team, she wasn’t alone. Sloan’s friend and classmate, Aminah, also joined Sloan on the Inky Squids. The two “outsiders” from the Valley did a great job of meshing with their new teammates although it helped that the returning girls were always so warm and welcoming.
Sloan is already pumped to continue the two-part soccer season in the spring. I will be excited to see further improvement and perhaps even a goal from that curly-haired girl wearing the #7 jersey. Great job to Sloan for trying something new, honoring her commitment, and playing hard. Don’t Blink.