Monday, May 25, 2009

Maddi's mad dash ...

Memorial Day in Boston.

It was a weekend of highs and lows for my eldest, MaryAlyssa. Twelve-year-old Maddi was recruited to play goalie for our neighboring Tribal lacrosse program for a two-day, U-13 tournament. I like these opportunities, as they give Maddi, a pretty social kid, the chance to meet other girls outside her normal social circle (she's in back, far left, in the accompanying photo). Plus, in the past two years, I've developed a healthy appreciation for the level of lacrosse that Tribal plays (they've routinely routed our Hamilton-Wenham squads, typically without breaking a sweat). Tribal's coach, Tom Mathers, was, in Maddi's words, "quite a character." A West Point grad, Mathers made no bones about the fact that he intended to win this tournament. "I hate losing, at anything." His coaching style was boisterous but positive; he clearly felt comfortable setting expectations high, with the idea that his girls would strive to meet those expectations. It's an approach I agree with wholeheartedly.

However, Coach Mathers also acknowledged that it was the youngest team he had ever brought to the tournament, and their inexperience showed. In the first two games on Saturday, Tribal was matched against their two chief rivals, Pentucket and North Andover, and lost each game by a single goal. The Pentucket loss (8-7) was tough on Maddi, as she fanned on the final goal. But the North Andover loss was particularly galling. Tribal jumped out to a 5-1 lead, only to fall apart in the second half. They surrendered five unanswered goals, including the winner with a second left to play. Maddi was clearly shaken afterward, upset at what she thought was excessive celebrating by the North Andover squad. I told her that North Andover had every right to be pumped ... it's not every day that a team comes back from a four-goal deficit. "You have to give them credit," I told her.

Still, I tried to focus on the positives. Maddi played well in goal, but not great. She's got good hand-eye coordination, but needs to move to the ball and be aware of her angles. She's a little ball shy (understandable, considering how hard a lacrosse ball is), and really needs to find a way to play with more fearlessness. I realize that's much easier said than done, and it's one of the reasons I'm willing to work with her. We practiced together Sunday morning, and Maddi was doing better. Maddi's not always crazy about practicing -- it's one of the huge disparities between us -- but the two losses seemed to motivate her.

Against Newburyport, Maddi and her Tribal team put it together. Maddi didn't see a lot of shots, but she really seemed focused on the ones that broke through. She played with more confidence, which is so critical in goal. Tribal cruised, 12-4, and Lauri and I were happy to have the weekend end on an upbeat note. When the final whistle blew, I looked over at Maddi, who was literally bounding up the field, her goalie stick raised high. It was the picture of pure, unbridled joy.

Then we learned that the coaches had arranged a second game -- a rematch against Tribal's nemesis, North Andover. Unfortunately, it didn't go according to script. Despite a spectacular late afternoon setting, Tribal got drubbed by their arch rivals. The final score was 11-7, but the game was decided before half-time, as North Andover rushed out to a 5-1 lead, and never looked back. Maddi, frustrated, wanted to blame her defense. I told her that a goaltender, by nature of the position, doesn't have that luxury. You've got to suck it up, and keep encouraging your teammates. Plus, Maddi's own play wasn't above reproach. She was tentative, tight. And though she didn't embarrass herself, she wasn't a difference-maker either. She started flailing at the ball, instead of attacking it, and got caught out of position on a number of shots. North Andover made her pay.

This is where I really struggle as a parent and as a coach. I wanted Maddi to take responsibility, as the position demands, and to channel that disappointment into better practice habits. She's a good goalie who could be really good with a little more effort. But I also wanted her to remember the setting, a breathtaking, Maxfield Parrish panorama with a bright, late-afternoon sun raining beams of light from behind large pink and gray clouds, bathing lush green fields. Taking in the entire scene, it was impossible for me not to think of Mom, Maddi's Grammy, smiling down from the heavens. Regardless of the games, or their outcomes, it was a beautiful day to be outside, playing. And I want Maddi to remember the sheer joy of her mad dash to her teammates after the Newburyport win, how good it felt to have everyone tapping her helmet. "It sounded like raindrops," she said afterward, smiling. I bet raindrops never sounded better to a 12-year-old.


No comments: