mia hamm she ain’t


{image is a photo of Katie striking the traditional “foot on ball” soccer pose before her first day of kindergarten soccer, 2006.}

Long before Katie was born, I knew that she’d be a soccer player. I suppose that I should say I thought I knew, but at the time, I was certain.

I have no idea why I thought that, mind you, I just did. I wasn’t a soccer player, nor was Luau. I don’t even particularly like soccer, but none of that seemed to be the point. I just had it in my head that my kid was going to play soccer.

I even made sure that her name worked as a soccer kid name. That I could shout it from the sidelines as she was running past – “Go, Katie, go!” Seriously. I actually shouted it while pregnant with her, running along the border of our backyard to make sure it worked. You’re laughing, aren’t you? That’s not very nice.


{image is a photo of Katie taking to the field}

In our town, kindergarten soccer is a big deal. It’s the first opportunity that many of us have to get the kids together and to meet the other parents. It’s also the first time that many of the kids are exposed to organized sport and to the concept of playing on a team. And, for some, it’s the first time that they will get to see just how off base their expectations of their kids were. (That would be me.)

While the other kids were hunting goals, Katie was hunting dandelions. While they were chasing down the ball, she was chasing butterflies. The idea of running around after a ball with other kids doing the same en masse clearly held no appeal for her whatsoever. At one point, she actually just sat her little tush down in the grass in the middle of a game. Just, ya know, cause.


{image is a photo of Katie on the field. She’s got her arms out to the sides and is, I believe, dancing.}

The coach, one of the other kid’s parents, came running over to get her out of harm’s way. After all, sitting in the middle of a soccer game isn’t really the best plan. “Katie, honey,” he said, “you’ve got to get up, kiddo.”

Another kid ran by huffing and puffing. “What’s the score, Coach?” he asked.

Coach Scott put a hand on his shoulder and said, “Broccoli to asparagus, kiddo, now get a sip of water and get back in there.” He turned his attention back to Katie and pointed to the cluster of kids moving in unison behind the ball. “Go get em.”

She sighed heavily. “But Coach Scott,” she said, drawing out his name as if even saying the single syllable was more than she could muster, “I’m soooooo tiiiiiiiiired.”

He winked at her. “Okay, kiddo,” he said, “I have an idea. How about if you play goalie?”

She looked up at him and said, “Huh?”

She couldn’t really be blamed for not knowing what a goalie was as there are no goalies in kindergarten soccer. It’s all most of the kids can do to kick the ball at all, no less get it in the goal without someone there to thwart their efforts.

“You defend the goal, kid,” he said, nudging her toward the net.

She turned to me as he returned to the game and yelled, “What do I do?”

I told her that she was to stand inside the net and make sure that no one got the ball in. “That’s your house,” I yelled across the field. “Don’t let anyone get the ball in your house!”

She gave me a nod and grinned. This was clearly a role that she could get into.

Both of us looked downfield at the same time. And there he was – that one kid. You know the kid. The one who looks like he’s ready to shave? The one who stands a head over every other kid out there. The one who not only actually knows how to  play soccer, but dribbles the ball downfield like he’s mini effing Pelé. Yeah, that kid. He was coming at her full steam, the entire rest of the field chasing after him fruitlessly.

“Don’t let him get the ball in the net, Katie!” I yelled. “That’s YOUR house!”

She nodded, then turned to watch her nemesis, making his way ever closer. For the first time, I was pretty sure I was seeing the competitive spirit in my kid. Survivor blared from the soundtrack in my head.

“It’s the eye of the tiger it’s the thrill of the fight, rising up to the challenge of our rival …”

And then it happened.

She backed into the net until she was completely inside of it. She bent her knees just enough to get the frame onto her shoulders. And then she stood up with the net on her back like a turtle’s shell and stepped three feet to her left. The ball whizzed by, rolling straight past the spot where the net should have been.


{image is a photo of Katie jumping for joy.}

She looked over at me, beaming. She gave me two thumbs up.

The Survivor soundtrack came to a halt. I had absolutely no idea what to do in response. I wondered if this is what Mrs Machiavelli felt like after Niccolò’s first soccer game. What had she said when he moved the goal? 

I stood stock still waiting for a sign from God. It didn’t come. Or maybe it did.

Luau leaned over and said, “Well, maybe she’ll be a poet.”

Screen shot 2015-02-05 at 6.31.53 AM

{image is a photo of Katie standing still holding the ball. She looks, well, not particularly enthusiastic.}

I still have no idea why I ever thought my first-born daughter was going to be a soccer player. I do now know, however, with just as much certainty as I had that she would be, that she’s not. And this Mama couldn’t be happier that she is exactly, precisely, perfectly who she is. 


12 thoughts on “mia hamm she ain’t

  1. The funny thing here I never in a million years would have guessed one of my kids would be a soccer kid and she is. She played goalie for years but she is good at most. When she took the field at seven I knew she would play all her life. When the couch picked someone else for goal on her high school team she was heart broke but by end of season she was playing varsity. I do not play sports my kids do and I would never have imagined they would lol. My daughter even married the grandson of her second soccer couch lol

  2. Love the picture painted as your turtle moved her house! I went through three different Saturday morning Soccer kids, none kept it up, didn’t make it with Matty. Till good memories as each child chased butterflies and ran in circles.

  3. None of my three played soccer for very long, despite my certainty that I would be a great soccer mom. My son just wasn’t “in your face” aggressive enough to play more than a couple of years and my daughters were dust kickers and butterfly chasers. To be fair, neither my husband or I are particularly athletic so I assume they got their sporting prowess from us. 🙂

  4. As the kid who sat in the outfield and picked flowers during my only little league experience, I enjoyed this immensely. And my lives and breathes soccer 24 hours a day and often plays goalie 14 year old son got equally as much enjoyment out of Katie’s moving the goalposts moment. I believe he may even have cackled. Brilliant kid, she knew who she was (or wasn’t, as the case may be) from the get go, and fantastic storytelling Jess.

  5. I have a little guy who can’t imagine not being in the mass, even when he’s getting run over or stomped on, and gets a just an eensy bit frustrated when other players sit in the grass (and is just the kind of kid you need to answer broccoli to asparagus to) and I thought this was hilarious.

    An out of the box thinker, is Katie.

  6. I love this story! I had a similar experience in kindergarten soccer – I loved the first day – they gave us all our own balls, and taught us to dribble, kick, and stop the ball. Then the second day, they took away everyone’s balls and made us all run after one ball, and I suddenly ceased to see the point. Individual sports were definitely the way to go for me. 🙂

  7. Just wondering what made you think of that today? It’s a great story!

    (I was the opposite; had no idea of putting my girl in soccer, but it was what EVERY kid did in K/1, so we tried her out. She just finished her 11th and final year of AYSO soccer; final, because she’s going to college in the fall. Though she says she might play spring soccer this year, just because the idea of it being over makes her sad…You could STILL knock me over with a feather!)

  8. Thanks for giving me a laugh this morning – can see my daughter doing exactly the same thing if she had tried soccer. We made her try baseball and it never worked out for her – she turned out to be a writer.

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