In My Ohio

On My Daughter's Secret Soccer Game Plan

Darren C. Demaree
Isabelle Jean (Belle) Demaree turned five in August, and shortly after that all-consuming princess experience, she joined her first soccer team. So, not only is she my daughter right now, she is also a Wildcat. The Wildcat part of her is an active, cunning, and secretive. It’s a whole new side to Belle. She has plans for victory, and it is a victory-at-all-costs sort of planning.
I know about her plans because she’s told me about them many times. She says she has a secret plan to win that day’s game. She won’t tell me what the plan is, though. She won’t tell her coach about it. After each game she tells me that the time wasn’t right to implement her plan. Well, time is running out, because as they approach their final game, the Wildcats are still winless. Okay, it is a league for five-year olds, and there is no official scoring record kept, but I can tell you by my own unofficial count that they have lost every game they have played. What is Belle waiting on? What diabolical plan has she concocted that takes this sort of exact execution? When faced with this final Wildcat excursion, will they all of the sudden dominate the shortened field?
I know my daughter pretty well, and though she isn’t the devastating force her little brother is, I know she is always planning something. She remembers everything that’s ever happened to her, and will point out every wrinkle to a new experience. “Daddy, do you remember when I was two, and we ordered pizza from this same place, but they forget to put mushrooms on it?” (That kind of pinpoint memory of things I have long forgotten has really made me tighten up my parenting game, because she is going to have every mistake I make on instant recall. I don’t want to aid sixteen-year-old Belle’s grandstanding.) So, with that memory, with her normal, quiet nature tucked away in her royal blue uniform, what is it that she decided is the winning strategy?
Is it something that could rival the fabled “Annexation of Puerto Rico” from the movie Little Giants? Has she been chasing butterflies and playing goalie so that she could keep one eye on the other fields at all times? She could be some sort of scouting prodigy, that could be it, or she could have been waiting for her teammates to develop into a more cohesive unit before bringing them into the fold. I really hope no one gets hurt in her scheme. There is no way she’s developed an appropriate response to the sacrifice of others for her gain.
I think what she likes is to put on her uniform, give me a serious face, and tell me stories. I love it. I love that she is considering all things, and secretly deciding on a way her team can play better. It doesn’t matter if there is a plan or not. What matters to me is that she is engaged, she’s loving to play something with other kids, and she is silly enough to string this whole thing on for almost two months. I’ve gotten as much joy from her pre-game conversations as I have from actually watching her play. Here’s hoping that she uses her strategy in the last game, whether it works or not, and she has one more good story to tell me about those secrets that she is keeping only long enough for them to be fun.