This is Em's seventh year playing AYSO soccer. She's always been enthusiastic, and she never been a detriment to any team. But over the last couple of years she's really started to come into her own. Last year, for instance, she was asked--though as one of the last picked--to be on one of her division's All Star teams. This year, she's considered a shoe-in.
The problem is, this summer is her Bat Mitzvah, and that involves a whole lot of time and effort, especially starting after the new year. So when we signed her up for AYSO, I made a point of telling both her and Baroy (who's been the assistant coach on her last four teams and may enjoy the games and practices even more than she does) that there was going to be no All Stars this year. She needs to attend Saturday morning services at least twice a month, I pointed out. And there are often Sunday games as well, which interfere with Sunday-morning religious school. That wasn't such a big deal last year, but this year...She really needs to be serious about Hebrew School for just one more year, is all.
Everyone agreed. To my face.
But this season has been incredible for her. She's one of the top three players on her team; the one everyone counts on not so much to score (she scored for the first time this season today, as a matter of fact) but to get plays started, to execute good sharp passes, to play a smart and aggressive game. And so, as the season has worn on, there's been the more-frequent sighing about how soon it's all going to end, with beseeching looks cast in my direction. I was impervious to them. Note the tense there.
Last week, I was talking to our synagogue's rabbi, and I mentioned the post-season soccer moratorium. "Oh, that's sort of a shame," he said, and went on to talk about how he and his son (whose Bar Mitzvah was just two years ago) worked out some compromises that allowed him to play through most of his Bar Mitzvah training.
I mentioned this conversation to Baroy and Em during dinner the other night. "I still don't think All Stars is a good idea," I warned, "but IF we can talk to someone in advance, and IF they understand that Hebrew School comes first and she might have to miss some games along the way...MAYBE we can consider it."
Em looked much too excited, so I tried to talk her down. "I doubt that any coach will want to take on a player who can't fully commit," I warned her. "And like I said, I'm still not sure it's that good of an idea."
"Oh, but Rabbi wants me to play," she countered, a smile playing around her lips. "And that's practically the same thing as God wanting me to play."
I may have rolled my eyes at that. OK, I definitely rolled my eyes at that.
And then came today's soccer game.
I arrived a few minutes late, only to find Baroy grinning at me as I approached our side of the field. He came over to me and whispered, "There's a scout here, looking at Em. A scout from Sectionals."
Sectionals is the group above the 'regular' All Star division. While five girls from Em's team last year went to All Stars (a lot for one team, but still...), only one went to sectionals. And she was the kind of kid who made your mouth drop open when you watched her play.
"Really? A scout? Looking at Em?"
Turned out, he was there for her, and for one other girl on the team. I felt badly for her at first, since she was a little off her game (dealing with, um, ahem, some woman stuff). But then came the third quarter, which is when she scored. And in the fourth she executed a perfect throw-in (you don't often hear people on the sidelines commenting on how good a throw-in is, but this one got cheers), that turned into another goal. Her team won, 2-0.
Baroy didn't tell her about the scout until they came off the field, and you could see her eyes get big and excited. Then she started to laugh.
"Wow, Mom," she said, coming over to me. "There's a scout here from Sectionals and I scored for the first time this season? God must REALLY want me to play in the postseason."
I've gotta say, with all the evidence stacked up right now? It's hard to argue with that particular theology.