It's gonna be painful.....
That's the warning I was given from my sister when Nikki and I agreed to take Jason to his soccer game. Tammy had a wedding to go to so we gladly offered to help her out while she was gone. The life of a sports mom, especially with two kids (one 16) is extremely hectic so we often end up helping with the logistics of the lifestyle.
A full year had passed since Jason last played soccer, his focus concentrated on baseball during that time. His baseball game knowledge had become very good, he understood where to throw the ball, how to back-up plays, the situation, and all the things necessary to be successful at baseball. In addition, he swung the bat with some ferocity despite his long, skinny frame. While others struggled, it was clear he had a strong grasp of the game. Soccer, however, proved to be quite a different story.
The last time we watched Jason play soccer was his first year so it was understandable that the game might be a difficult thing to grasp. Soccer tends to be much less structured, so the fluidity of the game often doesn't register until later on in the development process. At this age the game is typically a cluster of chaos with the ball emerging periodically for a breath of air, then being immediately inundated by the hornets nest of cleats and socks. Surely this go round would be different as Jason had another year of growth and development under his belt plus an understanding of team sports and what it means to be aggressive.
The early signs during warmups were ominous. The ball was splaying off his foot at all angles and he seemed to be on the verge of falling down all the time. His signature move was what I call the "guillotine". The move can be performed while he is at rest or while on the move. If on the move, the result is far more spectacular because then he is off balance and contorts and spins in the air. Imagine Charlie Brown with long legs. Much like Charlie Brown, he typically misses the ball while performing the move and his kicking leg cuts upward with enough force that I'm convinced it could cut another player's head off. His brother, Jacob, had warned me about it a few weeks before, and then I saw it in the backyard a few days later. I was certain a gratuitous shot to the package was inevitable so I kept a reasonable distance. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that it would happen in real time during the game.
Due to the ferocity and uniqueness of the move, I decided I would only take shots from the legs down to ensure I captured the beauty of it. I only had to wait a short time into the game before he gave me what I came for. In order to understand the move completely, we need to break down the evidence frame by frame a la the Zapruder film (if you don't know what that is you shouldn't be reading this anyway).
1. In frame one we can see excellent technique just before impact. Having played soccer most of my life, I can appreciate the power about to be unleashed here. Everything is in perfect position for a pinpoint strike at the ball.
2. Seemingly defying all laws of physics, he completely misses the ball. We can see the force of the blow reflected in the hyperextension of the knee. I'm not sure how his shin didn't fly off his leg and back over his head in a bloody stump. This frame shows why the move is called the guillotine. If somebody's head were in the arc of the leg path, it would surely be removed from the body (guys, imagine if you're package were in the path).
3. In this frame we see the follow through motion along with the ball in its original position. The force of the knee on the follow through could also do great damage to any innocent bystander.
Thank goodness he tends to float around the outside of the pack because it would be unfortunate so see a young 'un experience death by guillotine in the modern ages.
For the second half Jason played goalie and his knowledge of the game seemed to be about the same. He wandered all over the place and was out of position, but he had a hell of a good time picking up the ball, sprinting, and punting it as far as he is able. And that's when it dawned on me: Who cares if he knows what he's doing or not, he's having a great time, he's interacting, he's part of a team, he's learning, he's active and he enjoys the social aspect and dynamics of team sports.
However, I would have liked to have seen the guillotine maneuver on one of those punts...