Is it time for soccer practice? How much longer?

We had our first soccer practice the other night. It's Cal's first year. He's five. At our house, the 5:30 p.m. practice actually started around 7 a.m., when Cal woke us all up with a challenge: "Punch me right here to see if I'm wearing a cup," ...

We had our first soccer practice the other night. It's Cal's first year. He's five.

At our house, the 5:30 p.m. practice actually started around 7 a.m., when Cal woke us all up with a challenge: "Punch me right here to see if I'm wearing a cup," he dared, pointing to the area just below his midsection.

His dad, sister, two brothers and I all took a pass, "Maybe later, pal." Breakfast before bravado, always a priority in the Pertler household.

Around 10 a.m., he decided that he might have injuries precluding him from the ability to practice.

"What if I break my chin open?" he asked. "I think I might not be able to go."


We did our best to play the role of encouraging family. "You'll be OK, buddy."

Noon. The shoes didn't fit. "They're squishy," he said. "My feet are all crumpled inside."

He hadn't worn real shoes since Memorial Day, so it was no surprise that they felt uncomfortable. We tried to explain that soccer cleats are, well, squishy. "They fit snug so you can run hard."

He considered this thoughtfully and then ran off, barefoot, to catch butterflies.

The shoe issue got us thinking about socks. While not a necessary part of summer, they are a requirement of soccer. After rummaging through three sock drawers, I realized that we only possessed the ankle-type variety - no long tube socks that would fit over the shin guards of soccer. It was 2 p.m.

A quarter to three and I was home from the store with soccer socks in hand. Cal was starting to get back into the swing of things. "Should I get ready for practice?" he suggested.

"Not yet, sweetie."

He put his shin guards on anyway - on his arms. He wore them like shields and engaged in a battle with aliens for the next 45 minutes.


We were two hours away from practice and the anxiety began again.

"Who will be on my team? Will Jordan be there? Will Eric? Will my coach be nice?"

"Daddy's your coach."

He frowned, unconvinced.

"You know what you can do?" I asked, hoping to change gears.

He looked up, expectantly.

"You can put some Gatorade in the fridge so it gets cold."

In our house Gatorade is reserved for special occasions - games, practices, you know, real athletic events. He hadn't been privy to more than a handful of sips of Gatorade during his five years on this earth, and getting a whole one now placed him quite officially in the category of "big kid." He confidently placed the bottle on the bottom shelf of the fridge.


Half an hour later it was (finally) time to get dressed for practice.

"Put on your soccer T-shirt," we advised. He returned, in uniform, smiling.

"Did you remember underwear?" I asked, knowingly.

Without a word, he turned and ran back into the bedroom. Like shoes and socks, underwear can be a forgotten accessory during the summer months.

Equipment check. We could only find one shin guard. He looked at us with a deer-in-the-headlights expression. He had no idea where the second shin guard was. I performed a quick room scan and saw it lying on the living room table.

"Found it!" I said with the authority of a mom who knows how to find things.

Shin guards in place, it was time for the socks. They reached from his toes to his thighs. We folded them over, and then folded again.

"Perfect!" we proclaimed.


Little kids are so willing to gear up for sports. Here we have a guy who typically refuses shoes and socks (not to mention underwear) and he wriggles and pulls his way into fitted shin pads, long elastic socks and tight shoes on a very hot day all in the name of being a part of the team. It never ceases to amaze me, and I couldn't help but give him a little hug.

Shoes. Socks. Shin guards. Uniform. Underwear. Hug. Gatorade. We were missing just one thing: the ball. I went out to the garage to check our supply. Cal is the fourth in our family to play soccer, so I was fairly certain that we had what he needed. And, sure enough, at the bottom of the pile, there it was. It was a little flat and a bit scuffed from years of use by brothers and sister, but it would do. At least for now.

Practice went well. By saying that, I mean that all the players came wearing shin guards with their shoes on the right feet. Just about everyone kicked the ball without falling and there weren't any tears.

On the way home, he drank his Gatorade and reminisced like only a five-year-old can.

"Did you see me? I scored three goals," he said. "Or, maybe I scored four goals."

He was on a roll. I didn't have the heart to tell him he couldn't really score any goals until his first game, because that was a whole two days away. And, when you are five, two days can be a very long time.

Jill Pertler is a freelance writer working with graphic designer Nikki Willgohs to provide writing and design and other marketing services to businesses and individuals. She writes for the Pine Journal the first week of each month and can be reached at .

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