For the first time in my life, I gathered up the courage to sign up and play organized soccer last August. After all, the backyard is no proving ground. Plus, it was a great to play on an actual team with guys who knew the game.
Although we flew under the radar with a 0-4-5 record, it was a heck of a lot of fun. I had great teammates, the weather (save for a couple of 90+ degree days) treated us well, and I even managed to score a few goals. Crazy.
Anyway, one of the best pieces of soccer advice I ever received came from our captain, Justin. After our last game of the season, with our playoff hopes nothing more than a mourned fantasy, Justin came over to me on the bench, and offered me this:
"You had a heck of a season. You're probably one of the fastest guys in the league, and you progressed every week. Keep working on that right foot..."
Wait. It gets better.
"And once you get that taken care of, we can start working on your left."
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce myself as the world's only neither-footed player.
I didn't take it harshly. No way. This was my first time ever playing legit soccer. Justin, who probably started kicking a ball in the neonatal unit, is one of our best players. He knows what he's talking about. It also helped that he wasn't the typical arrogant jock who knew he was the next Pele or Maradona. That, more than anything else, helped ease the sting.
So, with the weaknesses addressed, I set out to improve my right foot - then, my left - during the offseason in the hopes of returning in the Spring as a player reborn. One who could send a through ball better than anyone on the block. A player who could shoot with the best on the U-11 level. In essence, I wanted to show that, yes, I can make myself into a better player.
It was an idea that eventually sent me to a few local soccer fields to work on this endeavor. And before I knew it, my right foot started coming along. My left? Believe it or not, my shots actually began to reach the goal. It was nasty.
My progress continued along for about two weeks. Not to pat myself on the back, but I was becoming what the English would call, "a worldbeater." And it looked like I'd head into spring ready to beat some worlds.
That is until a major snowstorm hit RI and dumped a solid two feet of snow all over the place, including my training grounds. For those of you who've never seen or experienced snow, here's some inside info: it's almost impossible to get high-quality touches on a 24" bed of snow. Seriously.
No problem, though. Just a temporary setback. The snow's gotta melt at some point. And when that point comes, I'll be back on the field, ready to continue where I left off.
Before half of that snow could melt, another blizzard reared its cold, ugly head and left us with another foot of snow. Fan-$%#@*-tastic.
Again, I hoped the snow would melt off, and my boots would finally get some use before the next snowfall. Sadly, that hope was extremely short-lived. Before I knew it, Snowstorm #3 dumped another five inches on every conceiveable plot of land within a 100 mile radius, and thus, my offseason training was halted once again.
In an attempt to thwart Mother Nature, I purchased a small, 4 x 6 net with the idea that I could somehow shovel the backyard - which isn't small, but a heck of alot easier to clear than a full-sized field - and temporarily set up shop behind the house.
I got about a quarter of it done this morning. Lo, the weather gods must have chortled because as soon as I checked the weather for tomorrow, the forecast included another 4-8 inches for RI.
Face, meet Palm.