J has surprised me by loving soccer. She started with the sport early this summer. I wanted the kids to try out different sports so they can decide for themselves what they enjoyed to do and wanted to pursue. After the soccer clinic has ended, she enrolled in a weekend football program, where she is registered upto now.
She is gentle and non-confrontational, so the aggressiveness needed by the sport was something she just could not turn on when she is on the field. I remember watching her during her first few sessions, she would run after the ball but would hesitate to get it from an opponent. I had to explain to her that in this sport, getting the ball from the opponent is not "grabbing", it is simply how the game is played. But being who she is, she is not one to charge at the ball, dribble it from across the field to score a goal. It's not in her character to be the hard-hitting striker. She has found a position she is good at, where her heart is comfortable playing. She is a solid and reliable defender. Strikers from opposing teams have a difficult time getting the ball past her and her team's goalie has found fewer balls to watch over.
In a recent mixed group tournament, she found herself in a group of ten kids from ages six to eight, of which, three of them are girls. She was the only girl in her group to play in all five qualifying games. She has surely come a long way from where she started in the sport.
Their team went on to win 2nd runner-up in their age category. She went home at the end of the day exhausted from playing (she slept the whole ride home), her skin a shade darker (even with re-applying sunblock every 2 hours), but with pride in herself and exhilaration in her heart.